The name of the author of this psalm is unknown. There is no certain evidence that it was composed by David, yet there is nothing in the psalm itself which is inconsistent with the supposition that he was the author. Perhaps the most natural and obvious interpretation of Psalm 66:13-15, would be that there is reference there to the temple; and if so, of course, the psalm must have been written by someone else. But it is not absolutely necessary to suppose that the temple is there referred to, for the language might be applied to the tabernacle as the “house” or the place of the worship of God. There is, however, no positive evidence that it was composed by David, and it is impossible now to determine its authorship.
As little can the occasion on which the psalm was composed be determined. It is evident only that it was after there had been some calamity of a private nature, or after the nation had been subjected to oppression by some powerful enemies, and when there had been deliverance from that calamity, Psalm 66:11-12. The calamity was similar to those which had been endured by the nation in the time of the Egyptian oppressions, and naturally brought to mind the sufferings endured by the people of God at that time, while their own deliverance suggested a recollection of the deliverance of their fathers from that bondage, Psalm 66:6. On the whole, the supposition of Rosenmuller that it was composed after the Babylonian captivity, and in view of the return of the people to their native land - perhaps to be sung on their journey from the land of exile, seems to me to be the most probable of any. Venema supposes that it refers to the time of Hezekiah, and the overthrow of Sennacherib; others regard it as referring to the persecutions of David by Saul; others, to the rebellion of Absalom; others, to the famine which is mentioned in Psalm 66:13-15. Such a psalm of praise would be a proper fulfillment of “vows” which it might be supposed the Hebrews would make in the time of their exile; to wit, that if they were ever permitted to return to their native land, they would go to the house of God, and sacrifice again on his altars.
On the phrase in the title, “To the chief Musician,” see Introduction to Psalm 4:1-8. On the words, “A Song or Psalm,” see the notes at the titles to Psalm 30:1-12 (notes) and Psalm 65:1-13 (notes).
The psalm contains:
I. An exhortation, addressed to all the earth, to praise God, as a matter pertaining to all lands, Psalm 66:1-2.
II. A reference to the mighty acts of God, as a reason for worshipping him, Psalm 66:3-7.
III. A reference to his gracious interposition in time of national danger and trouble, and to the fact that he had rescued the nation in a marvelous manner, Psalm 66:8-12.
IV. A reference to the vows which had been made in that time of trouble, and the purpose now to execute those vows, by going to the house of God, and sacrificing on his altars, Psalm 66:13-15.
V. A call on all people to hear what God had done for the worshippers: namely, That he had heard prayer; that he had interposed for their deliverance; that he had attended to the voice of supplication; that he had not turned away his mercy, Psalm 66:16-20.
Make a joyful noise unto God - literally, “Shout.” It is a call for exultation and praise.
All ye lands - Margin, as in Hebrew, all the earth. The occasion was one that made universal exultation and praise proper. They who had been so deeply affected by the gracious interposition of God, could not but call on all the nations of the earth to unite with them in the expression of joy. The deliverance was so great that they wished all to rejoice with them (compare Luke 15:6, Luke 15:9); and the intervention of God in the case of his people, furnished lessons about his character which gave occasion to all men to rejoice.
Sing forth the honor of his name - That is, Celebrate in appropriate praise the honor due to his name. Make that honor known in connection with songs.
Make his praise glorious - literally, “place honor, his praise;” that is, Give him honor; give him praise. The meaning is, Set forth his praise with songs - with music - with shouts; - that will be the appropriate expression of the praise which is due to him.
Say unto God - In your songs of praise. Let your songs be directly addressed to him, setting forth the grounds of that praise, or the reasons why it is due to him.
How terrible art thou in thy works! - How fearful! how much to be reverenced! The meaning is, that the manifestations of his power and greatness, in the events which occur under his government, are suited to impress the mind with awe and reverence.
Through the greatness of thy power - By the putting forth of thy power. Or, Thou hast such power over thine enemies as to be able to compel them to submit to thee.
Shall thine enemies submit themselves unto thee - Margin, Lie, or yield reigned obedience. The Hebrew word means to lie, to speak lies; then, to feign, to flatter, to play the hypocrite. It is thus applied to the vanquished, who make a hollow profession of submission and love to their victors. See the word explained in the notes at Psalm 18:44; compare Psalm 81:15; Deuteronomy 33:29; Job 31:28. The meaning here is, that he had power to subdue them, and to compel them to acknowledge his right to reign. It is the putting forth of mere power which is here referred to; and all that such power can do, is to secure outward and reigned submission. It cannot of itself secure the submission of the heart, the will, and the affections. That is to be secured by love, not by power; and the difference between the submission of the true people of God and that of all others is that the former are subdued by love, the latter by power; the submission of the former is genuine, that of the latter is forced. The inhabitants of heaven will be submissive to God because they love him; the dwellers in hell will be restrained by power, because they cannot deliver themselves. So now, the submission of a true child of God is that of love, or is a willing submission; the submission of a hypocrite is that of fear, when he feigns obedience because he cannot help it, or because he simply dreads the wrath of God. The object here is to celebrate the power of God, and it was sufficient, in order to set that forth, to say that it awed, and outwardly subdued the enemies of God.
All the earth shall worship thee - That is, all the inhabitants of the world will bow down before thee, or render thee homage. The time will come when thy right to reign will be universally acknowledged, or when thou wilt everywhere be adored as the true God. This is in accordance with all the statements in the Bible. See the notes at Psalm 22:27; Compare the notes at Isaiah 45:23; notes at Romans 14:11.
And shall sing unto thee - Shall celebrate thy praises. “To thy name.” To thee.
Come and see the works of God - See the notes at Psalm 46:8, where substantially the same expression occurs. The idea is, “Come and see what God has done and is doing; come and learn from this what he is; and let your hearts in view of all this, be excited to gratitude and praise.” The particular reference here is to what God had done in delivering his people from their former bondage in Egypt Psalm 66:6; but there is, connected with this, the idea that he actually rules among the nations, and that in his providence he has shown his power to govern and sbdue them.
He is terrible in his doing - That is, His acts are suited to inspire awe and veneration. See the notes at Psalm 66:3.
He turned the sea into dry land - The Red Sea, when he brought his people out of Egypt, Exodus 14:21. This was an illustration of his power, and of his ability to defend and deliver his people. The terror in that case, or that which was “terrible,” was the overthrow of their enemies the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea - thus showing that he had power to destroy all the enemies of his people.
They went through the flood on foot - literally, “through the river.” It is probable that the reference here is to the passage of the river Jordan, when the Israelites were about to pass into the promised land Joshua 3:14-17; thus combining the two great acts of divine interposition in favor of his people, and showing his power over streams and floods.
There did we rejoice in him - We, as a nation - our fathers - thus rejoiced in God. See Exodus 15.
He ruleth by his power for ever - literally, “Ruling by his power forever.” The idea is, that he does this constantly; in each age and generation. He never has ceased to rule; he never will. His dominion extends from age to age, and will stretch forward forever. The power which he evinced in delivering his people he retains now, and will retain forever. In that unchanging power, his people may confide; that unchanging power, the wicked should fear.
His eyes behold the nations - All nations; all people. He sees all their conduct. They can conceal nothing from him. They should, therefore, stand in awe. The wicked have much to fear from One who sees all that they do, and who has power to crush and destroy them. Compare the notes at Psalm 11:4.
Let not the rebellious exalt themselves - Be lifted up with pride, or feel secure. They cannot overcome an Almighty God; they cannot escape from his power. The word rebellious here has reference to those who are impatient under the restraints of the law of God, and who are disposed to east off his authority. The admonition is one that may be addressed to all who thus rebel against God, whether they are nations or individuals. Alike they must feel the vengeance of his arm, and fall beneath his power.
O bless our God, ye people - That is, particularly the people of the nation; the Hebrew people. The call here to praise or bless God is on account of some special benefit which had been conferred on them, and which is referred to more particularly in the following verses. It was his gracious interposition in the time of danger, by which they were delivered from their foes, Psalm 66:11-12.
And make the voice of his praise to be heard - Let it be sounded out afar, that it may be heard abroad.
Which holdeth our soul in life - Margin, as in Hebrew, putteth. That is, He has put (or placed) us in a state of safety. The word rendered “in life” means literally “among the living.” The word soul here is equivalent to us - ourselves; and the idea is, that he keeps us among the living. What is here said of this special deliverance is true of all people at all times, that they owe the fact that they are among the living to the care of God; or, it is because he puts them among the living, or keeps them alive.
And suffereth not our feet to be moved - That is, from their firm position of safety. The idea is taken from one who is walking, and who is kept from slipping or falling.
For thou, O God, hast proved us - That is, Thou hast tried us; thou hast tested the reality of our attachment to thee, as silver is tried by the application of fire. God had proved or tried them by bringing calamity upon them to test the reality of their allegiance to him. The nature of the proof or trial is referred to in the following verses.
Thou hast tried us, as silver is tried - That is, by being subjected to appropriate tests to ascertain its real nature, and to remove from it imperfections. Compare the notes at 1 Peter 1:7; notes at Isaiah 1:25; notes at Isaiah 48:10; see also Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:3.
Thou broughtest us into the net - That is, Thou hast suffered or permitted us to be brought into the net; thou hast suffered us to be taken captive, as beasts are caught in a snare. See the notes at Psalm 9:15. The allusion here is to the efforts made by their enemies to take them, as hunters lay gins, or spread nets, to capture wild beasts. The idea here is, that those enemies had been successful; God had suffered them to fall into their hands. If we suppose this psalm to have been composed on the return from the Babylonian captivity, the propriety of this language will be apparent, for it well describes the fact that the nation had been subdued by the Babylonians, and had been led captive into a distant land. Compare Lamentations 1:13.
Thou laidst affliction upon our loins - The loins are mentioned as the seat of strength (compare Deuteronomy 33:11; 1 Kings 12:10; Job 40:16).; and the idea here is, that he had put their strength to the test; he had tried them to see how much they could bear; he had made the test effectual by applying it to the part which was able to bear most. The idea is, that he had called them to endure as much as they were able to endure. He had tried them to the utmost.
Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads - This refers evidently to some national subjection or conquest - most probably to their having been subdued by the Babylonians. Professor Alexander renders this, “Thou hast caused men to ride at our head,” as if leading them forth as captives in war. The most probable meaning, however, is that they had been subdued, as if on a field of battle, and as if their conquerors had ridden over them when prostrate on the ground. Compare the notes at Psalm 44:5, and the notes at Isaiah 51:23.
We went through fire and through water - This is designed to represent the nature of their trials. It was as if they had been made to pass through burning flames and raging floods. Compare the notes at Isaiah 43:2. Instead of passing through the seas and rivers when the waters had been turned back, and when a dry and safe path was made for them, as was the ease with their fathers Psalm 66:6, they had been compelled to breast the flood itself; and yet, notwithstanding this, God had brought them into a place of safety. In either way, by parting the floods, or by conducting his people through them, as shall seem best pleasing to him, God can conduct his people safely, and deliver them from danger. The power, the protecting care, the love, and the faithfulness of God are shown with equal clearness whether he divides the flood and causes his people to march through as on dry land, or whether he suffers the flood to rage and heave around them while he conducts his chosen people safely through.
But there broughtest us out into a wealthy place - Margin, moist. Professor Alexander, overfIow, abundance. Vulgate, info a place of refreshment - refrigerium. The Septuagint, εἰς ἀναψυχήν eis anapsuchēn Luther, Thou hast led us forth and quickened us. DeWette, zum Ueberflusse- “to overflowing, or abundance.” The Hebrew word - רויה revâyâh - means properly “abundant drink,” “abundance.” It occurs only here and in Psalm 23:5, where it is rendered “runneth over.” See the notes at that place. The proper idea here is, that he had brought them into a land where there was plenty of water - as emblematic of abundance in general. He had led them to a place where there were ample rivers, springs, and streams, producing fertility and abundance. This would be the language of the people after their return from exile, and when they were permitted again to re-visit their native land - a land always characterized as a land of plenty. See Deuteronomy 8:7; compare Exodus 3:8; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 13:27.
I will go into thy house with burnt-offeriings - To thy temple - the place of worship. This is language designed to represent the feelings and the purpose of the people. If the psalm was composed on occasion of the return from the Babylonian captivity, it means that, as their first act, the people would go to the house of God, and acknowledge his goodness to them, and render him praise. On the word burnt-offerings, see the notes at Isaiah 1:11.
I will pay thee my vows - I will keep the solemn promises which I had made; that is, the promises which the people had made in the long period of their captivity. On the word vows, see the notes at Psalm 22:25.
Which my lips have uttered - Margin, “opened.” The Hebrew word, however - פצה pâtsâh - means properly to tear apart; to rend; and then, to open wide, as the mouth, for example - or the throat, - as wild beasts do, Psalm 22:13. Then it means to open the mouth in scorn Lamentations 2:16; Lamentations 3:46; and then, to utter hasty words, Job 35:16. The idea would be expressed by us by the phrases to bolt or blurt out; to utter hastily; or, to utter from a heart full and overflowing to utter with very little care as to the language employed. It is the fullness of the heart which would be suggested by the word, and not a nice choice of expressions. The idea is, that the heart was full; and that the vows were made under the influence of deep emotion, when the heart was so full that it could not but speak, and when there was very little attention to the language. It was not a calm and studied selection of words. Such vows are not less acceptable to God than those which are made in the best-selected language. Not a little of the most popular sacred poetry in all tongues is of this nature; and when refined down to the nicest rules of art it ceases to be popular, or to meet the needs of the soul, and is laid aside. The psalmist here means to say, that though these vows were the result of deep feeling - of warm, gushing emotion - rather than of calm and thoughtful reflection, yet there was no disposition to disown or repudiate them now. They were made in the depth of feeling - in real sincerity - and there was a purpose fairly to carry them out.
When I was in trouble - When the people were in captivity, languishing in a foreign land. Vows made in trouble - in sickness, in bereavement, in times of public calamity - should be faithfully performed when health and prosperity visit us again; but, alas, how often are they forgotten!
I will offer unto thee burnt sacrifices of fatlings - Margin, marrow. On the word rendered “burnt-offerings” see the notes at Isaiah 1:11. The word rendered “fatlings” is rendered in Isaiah 5:17, lambs. It may be applied to any animal considered as fat - a qualification required in sacrifices to be made on the altar, Isaiah 1:11.
With the incense of rams - The word here rendered incense is commonly applied to aromatics which were burned in the tabernacle or temple, producing a grateful odor (see the notes at Isaiah 1:13); but it seems here to be used with reference to the smoke ascending from burning rams offered in sacrifice - ascending as the smoke of incense did. The smoke thus ascending would be as grateful and acceptable as incense.
I will offer bullocks with goats - Bullocks and goats. That is, I will present sacrifices in all the forms required in worship; in all the forms that will express gratitude to God, or that will be an acknowledgment of dependence and guilt; in all that would properly express homage to the Deity. Bullocks and goats were both required in the ancient worship.
Come and hear, all ye that fear God - All who are true worshippers of God - the idea of fear or reverence being put for worship in general. The call is on all who truly loved God to hear what he had done, in order that he might be suitably honored, and that due praise might be given him.
And I will declare what he hath done for my soul - This is probably the personification of an individual to represent the people, considered as delivered from oppression and bondage. The words “for my soul” are equivalent to “for me.” Literally, “for my life.” The phrase would embrace all that God had done by his gracious intervention in delivering the people from bondage. The language here is such as may be used by any one who is converted to God, in reference
(a) to all that God has done to redeem the soul;
(b) to all that he has done to pardon its guilt;
(c) to all that he has done to give it peace and joy;
(d) to all that he has done to enable it to overcome sin;
(e) to all that he has done to give it comfort in the prospect of death;
(f) to all that he has done to impart thee hope of heaven.
The principle here is one which it is right to apply to all such cases. It is right and proper for a converted sinner to call on others to hear what God has done for him;
(a) because it is due to God thus to honor him;
(b) because the converted heart naturally gives utterance to expressions of gratitude and praise, or wishes to make known the joy derived from pardoned sin;
(c) because there is in such a soul a strong desire that others may partake of the same blessedness, and find the same satisfaction and peace in the service of God.
It is the duty of those who are pardoned and converted thus to call on others to hear what God has done for them;
(a) because others have the same need of religion which they have;
(b) because the same salvation is provided for them which has been provided for those who have found peace;
(c) because all are under obligation to make known as far as possible the fact that God has provided salvation for sinners, and that all may be saved.
He who has no such sense of the mercy of God, manifested toward himself, as to desire that others may be saved - who sees no such value in the religion which he professes as to have an earnest wish that others may partake of it also - can have no real evidence that his own heart has ever been converted to God. Compare the notes at Romans 9:1-3; notes at Romans 10:1.
I cried unto him with my mouth - That is, in my trouble; when distress came upon me. This, according to the explanation of the design of the psalm given above, is one individual speaking on behalf of the nation, or uttering the sentiment of the people. At the same time, however, all this is language appropriate to an individual when recording his own experience.
And he was extolled with my tongue - I praised him; I acknowledged his supremacy. I recognized my dependence on him, and looked to him as that God who had all things under his control, and who could grant me the deliverance which I desired.
If I regard iniquity in my heart - literally, “If I have seen iniquity in my heart.” That is, If I have indulged in a purpose of iniquity; if I have had a wicked end in view; if I have not been willing to forsake all sin; if I have cherished a purpose of pollution or wrong. The meaning is not literally, If I have “seen” any iniquity in my heart - for no one can look into his own heart, and not see that it is defiled by sin; but, If I have cherished it in my soul; if I have gloated over past sins; if I am purposing to commit sin again; if I am not willing to abandon all sin, and to be holy.
The Lord will not hear me - That is, He will not regard and answer my prayer. The idea is, that in order that prayer may be heard, there must be a purpose to forsake all forms of sin. This is a great and most important principle in regard to prayer. The same principle is affirmed or implied in Psalm 18:41; Psalm 34:15; Proverbs 1:28; Proverbs 15:29; Proverbs 28:9; Isaiah 15:1-9; Jeremiah 11:11; Jeremiah 14:12; Zechariah 7:13; John 9:31. It is also especially stated in Isaiah 58:3-7. The principle is applicable
(a) to secret purposes of sin; to sinful desires, corrupt passions. and evil propensities;
(b) to acts of sin in individuals, as when a man is pursuing a business founded on fraud, dishonesty, oppression, and wrong;
(c) to public acts of sin, as when a people fast and pray Isaiah 58:1-14, and yet hold their fellow-men in bondage; or enact and maintain unjust and unrighteous laws; or uphold the acts of wicked rulers; or countenance and support by law that which is contrary to the law of God; and
(d) to the feelings of an awakened and trembling sinner when he is professedly seeking salvation.
If there is still the love of evil in his heart; if he has some cherished purpose of iniquity which he is not willing to abandon; if there is any one sin, however small or unimportant it may seem to be, which he is not willing to forsake, he cannot hope that God will hear his prayer; he may be assured that he will not. All prayer, to be acceptable to God, must be connected with a purpose to forsake all sin.
But verily God hath heard me - That is, He has given me evidence that he has heard my prayer; and, in doing this, he has thus given me the assurance also that I do not regard iniquity in my heart. The evidence that he has heard me is at the same time proof to my mind that I do not love sin. As it is a settled and universal principle that God does not hear prayer when there is in the heart a cherished love and purpose of iniquity, so it follows that, if there is evidence that he has heard our prayers, it is proof that he has seen that our hearts are sincere, and that we truly desire to forsake all forms of sin.
Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer - That is, It is fit that I should praise and adore God for the fact that he has graciously condescended to listen to the voice of my supplications.
Nor his mercy from me - There is no more proper ground of praise than the fact that God hears prayer - the prayer of poor, ignorant, sinful, dying men. When we consider how great is his condescension in doing this; when we think of his greatness and immensity; when we reflect that the whole universe is dependent on him, and that the farthest worlds need his care and attention; when we bear in mind that we are creatures of a day and “know nothing;” and especially when we remember how we have violated his laws, how sensual, corrupt, and vile our lives have been, how low and grovelling have been our aims and purposes, how we have provoked him by our unbelief, our ingratitude, and our hardness of heart - we can never express, in appropriate words, the extent of his goodness in hearing our prayers, nor can we find language which will properly give utterance to the praises due to his name for having condescended to listen to our cries for mercy.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 66". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany