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There are two groups of Pss. in this book, Psalms 73-83 being Psalms of Asaph, and Psalms 84-88 (except 86) Psalms of the Sons of Korah. The likeness of the title of Psalms 89 to that of Psalms 88 suggests that it belongs to the same group. The Sons of Asaph and the Sons of Korah were guilds of singers connected with the second Temple (2 Chronicles 20:19; Ezra 2:41; Nehemiah 7:44), and these groups of Pss. belong to collections made by them for the Temple services.
The Psalms of Asaph, though of different dates, are of a similar character, having many features in common. They are national and historical Pss., setting forth God’s working in history, expressing national wants, and suggesting lessons from the past for use in the future. These Pss. have a definite doctrine of God. On the one hand, He is the Shepherd of Israel (Psalms 80:1), and the people are the sheep of His pasture (Psalms 74:1; Psalms 77:20; Psalms 79:13). This idea is frequently suggested, and it is elaborated at length in Psalms 78. On the other hand, God is the Judge (Psalms 75:7), defending Israel against enemies (Psalms 76:3-6), executing His judgments against the wicked (Psalms 76:8-9), and also administering justice to the poor and defending them from oppressors (Psalms 82:2-4). Another feature of these Pss. is the way in which history is used for instruction, admonition, and encouragement. Psalms 78 is a lesson of comfort and courage from the past experiences of the nation (cp. Psalms 77:11; Psalms 80:8-10; Psalms 81:7, Psalms 81:10; Psalms 83:9, Psalms 83:11).
The Psalms of the Sons of Korah are largely devoted to the exaltation of the Temple worship. Those who dwell in its courts are blessed (Psalms 84:4); a day spent there is better than a thousand elsewhere (Psalms 84:10). Jerusalem is the favourite place of God (Psalms 87:2); to be born there is a high privilege (Psalms 87:5); and a special blessing attends those who have it (Psalms 87:6).
The problem of the prosperity of the wicked presses upon all the Psalmists, and the author of Psalms 73 dwells upon it. Only religion enables him to bear the burden that oppresses him (Psalms 73:17); but when comforted by the thought of God’s presence and healed by communion with Him, he is able to persevere in faith and hope.
Psalms 89 is frequently referred to in NT., e.g. Acts 13:22 (Psalms 89:20), 2 Thessalonians 1:10 (Psalms 89:7), Revelation 1:5 (Psalms 89:27 and Psalms 89:37); while Psalms 78:2 is applied in Matthew 13:35 to Christ’s teaching by parables.
The Pss. of Asaph, like those of Book 2, are ’Elohistic’: the Korahite Pss. are ’Jehovistic,’ like those of Books 1, 4, and 5 (see Intro, to Book 2).
We have here another national and historical Ps., written when the Jewish kingdom and its king had fallen very low before their enemies, contrasting the promises made to David with their seeming lack of fulfilment in the course of events, and appealing to God to vindicate His faithfulness. Psalms 89:1-4 are introductory, announcing the Psalmist’s purpose of praising God, and recalling the covenant made with David. The following vv. celebrate God’s glory among His heavenly hosts (Psalms 89:5-7), in His victory over His enemies, especially Egypt (Psalms 89:8-10), and in the world of nature (Psalms 89:11-12). Psalms 89:13-14 declare His attributes of strength, righteousness, mercy, and truth, and Psalms 89:15-18 speak of the blessedness of His people and their king. His promises to David are repeated at length (Psalms 89:19-37), and the present humiliation of king and people are graphically described (Psalms 89:38-45). The closing vv. are a prayer, in which the Psalmist pleads the shortness of his own life, and the reproaches of the heathen, as reasons for a speedy manifestation of God’s faithfulness to His word (Psalms 89:46-51). Psalms 89:52 is the closing doxology of Book 3 of the Psalter. The Ps. was probably written during the exile, and it has been supposed that the king of Psalms 89:39-45 is Jehoiachin, who was deposed and carried away to Babylon in his youth, after a reign of three months (2 Kings 24:8-12; 2 Chronicles 36:9-11; Jeremiah 24:1; Jeremiah 29:2), and kept a prisoner there for thirty-seven years (2 Kings 25:27).
Title.—Maschil] see on Psalms 32. Ethan the Ezrahite] mentioned in 1 Kings 4:31 and 1 Chronicles 2:6.
3, 4. God is here the speaker: see on Psalms 89:19-37. Selah] see on Psalms 3:4;
5. Congregation of the saints] RV ’assembly of the holy ones.’ The angels are meant.
6. Sons of the mighty] angels: see Psalms 29:1.
7. Assembly of the saints] RV ’council of the holy ones,’ as in Psalms 89:5. Had in reverence of] RV ’feared above.’
8. Or to thy faithfulness] RV ’and thy faithfulness is.’
10. Rahab] Egypt: see on Psalms 87:4.
12. Tabor and Hermon] the most prominent mountains of Palestine.
14. Justice] RV ’righteousness.’
Habitation] RV ’foundation.’
15. The joyful sound] perhaps the sound of trumpets on the occasion of Israel’s national and religious rejoicing.
17. Our horn] see Psalms 75:4, Psalms 75:10.
18. RV ’For our shield belongeth unto the Lord; and our king to the Holy One of Israel.’ The ’shield’ is the same as the ’king,’ who is under God’s protecting care.
19. In vision] 2 Samuel 7:17. Thy holy one] RV ’thy saints,’ the nation of Israel. I have laid help, etc.] I have given a brave man My aid to defend Israel.
19-37 are a poetical expansion of 2 Samuel 7:8-16.
22. Exact upon him] RM ’do him violence.’
25. In.. in] RV ’on.. on’: see on Psalms 80:11.
27. My firstborn] The position formerly given to the nation (Exodus 4:22) is here assigned to its king.
30f. The promises of the past are recalled in view of the sad present. Israel had suffered for his sins. Should he not be restored?
37. And as the faithful witness, etc.] The meaning is uncertain. The ’faithful witness’ may be the moon, or we may read, ’and the witness in the sky (God) is faithful.’
38. Abhorred] RV ’rejected.’ Thineanointed] Israel’s king. A particular individual, probably Jehoiachin, seems to be in view in this and the following vv., though they may also be understood of the nation as a whole.
39. Made void] RV ’abhorred.’
40. The thought passes from the king to the nation. For the figure cp. Psalms 80:12.
45. The days of his youth] a phrase specially appropriate to Jehoiachin.
46. Shall] RV ’how long shall.’
47. Wherefore.. in vain?] RV ’For what vanity hast thou created all the children of men!’
48. Hand of the grave] RV’ power of Sheol.’
50. People] RV ’peoples,’ the enemies of Israel.
52. The doxology marks the close of Book 3: cp. Psalms 41:13; Psalms 72:18, Psalms 72:19.
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Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Psalms 89". "Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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