On the phrases in the title, “To the chief Musician” and “on Neginoth,” see the notes at the Introduction to Psalm 4:1-8. On the words “psalm” and “song,” see the notes at the title to Psalm 48:1-14.
Four of the psalms Psalm 4:1-8; Psalm 6:1-10; Psalm 54:1-7; 55, where the phrase “on Neginoth” occurs, are ascribed to David; one Isaiah 37:30, “Ye shall eat this year such as groweth of itself; and the second year such as groweth of the same: and in the third year sow ye, and reap, and plant vineyards, and eat the fruit there-of.” This was to be a “sign” to the people of Israel that the land would not be subjugated to the foreigners (see my noteat that passage); and the psalm, according to this supposition, was written in view of the fact that God had, at the time of its composition, mercifully interposed in the destruction of the Assyrian army. The psalm contains, according to this idea, an expression of praise for the merciful interposition which God had thus vouchsafed, and a prayer that the promise might be fully accomplished; that the land might be free from any future invasion; and that, according to the prediction, it might produce abundantly, or that it might be cultivated in peace, and with no fear of foreign conquest. Thus, Psalm 67:6: “Then shall the earth yield her increase; and God, even our own God, shall bless us.” There is much plausibility in this supposition, though it is not possible with certainty to determine its correctness.
Thus understood, the psalm is designed to express the feelings - the desires - the hopes of the Hebrew people in those circumstances. It contains,
I. A prayer that God would still be merciful to them and bless them, as if there were still some danger to be apprehended, Psalm 67:1.
II. A desire that his ways - the principles of his administration - might be made known to all people, Psalm 67:2.
III. A call on the people to praise God for what he had done, with the expression of a wish that all nations might be glad and rejoice; that they might put their trust in God as a righteous God; that they might understand the great principles on which he governs the world, Psalm 67:3-5.
IV. A statement of the fact that then - in connection with this universal recognition of God - the prophecy would be fulfilled in its most complete sense; that the earth would yield her increase as it was made to do; that there would be universal prosperity: in other words, that the proper acknowledgment of God, and the prevalence of true religion, would be an incalculable benefit to man‘s temporal interests; or, that under such a state of things, the true fertility and productiveness of the earth would be developed, Psalm 67:6-7. The psalm thus illustrates the influence of true religion in securing the proper cultivation of the earth (accomplishing so far the purpose for which man was made, Genesis 1:28; Genesis 2:15), and consequently in promoting the happiness of mankind.
God be merciful unto us, and bless us - There is, perhaps (as Prof. Alexander suggests), an allusion, in the language used here, to the sacerdotal benediction in Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee; the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.” The prayer is that God would bestow upon his people the blessing implied in the form of benediction which he had directed the ministers of his religion to use. The first cry is, of course, for mercy or favor. The beginning of all blessings to mankind is the favor or mercy of God. There is no higher blessing than his favor; there is none that comes from him which should not be regarded as mercy.
And cause his face to shine upon us - Margin, With us. That is, among us. It is an invocation of his presence and favor. On the phrase “cause his face to shine,” see the notes at Psalm 4:6.
That thy way may be known upon earth - The law of God; the principles and methods of the divine administration; the way in which God rules mankind and in which he bestows his blessings on people. The prayer is, that all the earth might be made acquainted with the methods in which God deals with his people, or confers favors on people. The happiness of man depends on a knowledge of the principles on which God bestows his favors; for all people are, in all things, dependent on him. The success of a farmer depends on his understanding, and complying with, the laws and principles on which God bestows a harvest; the preservation of health, the restoration of health when we are sick, depends on a knowledge of the great laws which God has ordained for the continuance of the healthy functions of our bodies, and on the use of the means which he has provided for restoring health when those functions are disordered; and, in like manner, the salvation of the soul depends on the right understanding of the method which God has appointed to secure his favor. In neither of these cases - in no case - is it the business of people to originate laws of their own; laws for the cultivation of the earth, or for the preservation of health, or for the saving of the soul. The business of man is to find out the rules in accordance with which God bestows his favors, and then to act in obedience to them. The psalmist here supposes that there are certain rules or principles, in accordance with which God bestows blessings on mankind; and he prays that those rules and principles may be everywhere made known upon the earth.
Thy saving health among all nations - The original word here rendered “saving health,” is “salvation.” It is with great uniformity so rendered. It is indeed translated “welfare,” in Job 30:15; help, in Psalm 3:2; Psalm 42:5; deliverance, in Psalm 18:50; Psalm 44:4; Isaiah 26:18; helping, Psalm 22:1; and health, in Psalm 42:11; but elsewhere it is in all cases rendered “salvation.” The words “saving health” were adopted from an older version, but no argument should be founded on, them. The word “salvation” expresses all that there is in the original; and the prayer is, that the method by which God confers salvation on people may be made known throughout all lands. Assuredly no more appropriate prayer could be offered than that all the race may be made acquainted with the way in which God saves sinners.
Let the people praise thee, O God - Do thou incline them to praise thee: a prayer that all people might so understand the character and ways of God, and might have such a sense of his claims upon them, as to lead them to praise him.
Let all the people praise thee - The people of all lands. See the notes at Psalm 22:27. Compare Psalm 66:4.
O let the nations be qlad, and sing for joy - All the nations of the earth. Let them all be made acquainted with thee; with thy character; with the principles of thy govermnent; with the methods by which thou dost bestow thy favors, that they all may be made glad. These things pertain to them all. The knowledge of these things would convey inestimable blessings to them all, and fill all their hearts with joy. Nothing would, in fact, diffuse so much happiness over a miserable and guilty world - nothing would furnish such an occasion for universal joy, gratitude, and praise - as the possession of the knowledge of the great principles on which God rules the world, and on which he blesses people.
For thou shalt judge the people righteously - That is, The great principles of thy administration are right, or righteous. and the nations will have occasion to rejoice in them.
And, govern the nations upon earth - Margin, lead. So the Hebrew. That is, God would instruct them what to do; he would guide them in paths of prosperity, happiness, salvation. Individuals and nations, as they follow the counsels of God, are safe and happy; and in no other way.
Let the people praise thee - See Psalm 67:5. The repetition shows that this was the principal thought in the mind of the author of the psalm. It expresses an earnest - an intense - desire, that all nations should acknowledge God as the true God, and praise him for his mercies.
Then shall the earth yield her increase - The word rendered “increase” - יבול yebûl - means properly produce, or that which the earth produces when properly cultivated. It is rendered “increase,” as here, in Leviticus 26:4, Leviticus 26:20; Deuteronomy 32:22; Judges 6:4; Job 20:28; Psalm 78:46; Psalm 85:12; Ezekiel 34:27; Zechariah 8:12; and fruit, in Deuteronomy 11:17; Habakkuk 3:17; Haggai 1:10. It does not elsewhere cccur. The Hebrew verb here is in the past tense - “has yielded her increase,” but the connection seems to demand that it shall be rendered in the future, as the entire psalm pertains to the future - to the diffusion of the knowledge of the way of God, Psalm 67:2; to the desire that the nations might praise him, Psalm 67:3-5; and to the fact that God would bless the people, Psalm 67:6-7. Thus understood, the idea is, that the prevalence of true religion in the world would be connected with prosperity, or that it would tend greatly to increase the productions of the earth. This, it would do,
(a) as such an acknowledgment of God would tend to secure the divine favor and blessing on those who cultivate the earth, preventing the necessity, by way of judgment, of cutting off its harvests by blight, and drought, and mildew, by frost, and storm, and destructive insects, caterpillars, and locusts;
(b) as it would lead to a much more extensive and general cultivation of the soil, bringing into the field multitudes, as laborers, to occupy its waste places, who are now idle, or intemperate, or who are cut down by vice and consigned to an early grave.
If all who are now idle were made industrious - as they would be by the influence of true religion; if all who by intemperance are rendered worthless, improvident, and wasteful, were made sober and working people; if all who are withdrawn from cultivating the earth by wars - who are kept in standing armies, consumers and not producers - or who are cut down in battle, should be occupied in tilling the soil, or should become producers in any way; and if all who are now slaves, and whose labor is not worth half as much as that of freemen, should be restored to their equal rights, - the productions of the earth would at once be increased many times beyond the present amount. The prevalence of true religion in the world, arresting the cause of idleness and improvidence, and keeping alive those who are now cut off by vice, by crime, and by the ravages of war, would soon make the whole world assume a different aspect, and would accomplish the prediction of the prophet Isaiah 35:1 that the “wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad, and that the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose.” The earth has never yet been half cultivated. Vast tracts of land are still wholly unsubdued and uninhabited. No part of the earth has yet been made to produce all that it could be made to yield; and no one can estimate what the teeming earth might be made to produce if it were brought under the influence of proper cultivation. As far as the true religion spreads, it will be cultivated; and in the days of the millenium, when the true religion shall be diffused over all continents and islands, the earth will be a vast fruitful field, and much of the beauty and the fertility of Eden be reproduced in every land.
And God, even our own God, shall bless us - The true God; the God whom we adore. That is, He will bless us with this abundant fertility; he will bless us with every needed favor.
God shall bless us - That is, with prosperity, peace, salvation. The making of his name known abroad will be the means of blessing the world; will be the highest favor that can be conferred on mankind.
And all the ends of the earth shall fear him - All parts of the earth. See the notes at Psalm 22:27. The time, therefore, looked for is that when the knowledge of the Lord shall pervade all lands; the time to which the ancient prophets were constantly looking forward as the sum of all their wishes, and the burden of all their communications; that time, for the coming of which all who love their fellow-men, and who earnestly desire the welfare of the world, should most earnestly pray. The hope that this may occur, is the only bright thing in the future respecting this world; and he lives most in accordance with the high ends for which man was made who most earnestly desires this, and who, by his prayers and efforts, contributes most to this glorious consummation.
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 67". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany