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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 21

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary



The preceding psalm was a prayer for success; this is a thanksgiving after victory. Possibly, as many think, the two refer to the same event, and are by the same author. The composition is also similar, since here also the arrangement is for a part song. The people—probably a chorus of maidens (see Note to Psalms 21:3), or of Levites—meet the returning hero, with their shouts of praise to Jehovah (Psalms 21:1-7). The monarch himself is then addressed, perhaps by the leader of the procession (Psalms 21:8-12), and the whole concourse again unite in a burst of praise to God at the end. The rhythm is weak and ill-sustained.

Verse 1

(1) The king shall.—Rather, the king is exulting in thy might (which has secured the victory he prayed for), and in thy help how greatly glad is he.

Verse 2

(2) Request.—The Hebrew word occurs nowhere else, but is connected with a root, to be poor, and, therefore, in want. The “not” is emphatic: “And the request of his lips thou hast by no means withheld.” The mention in Psalms 21:4 of a prayer for long life, or perhaps, rather, continuance of life, suggests that this “request” was uttered in sickness. On the other hand the general tone of the psalm connects it with a victory.

Verse 3

(3) Thou preventesti.e., comest to meet him. The word “prevent” is familiar in this sense in the English collect: “Prevent us, O Lord, in all our doings.” (Comp. Psalms 79:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:15.) The “crown “is by some identified with that won by David at Rabbah Moab. Others make it refer to a coronation. Ewald thinks of a birthday celebration. Probably no more is intended than a symbol of victory and rejoicing. Maidens were accustomed to meet a monarch returning in victory, and to offer a crown, or garland, which was a symbol of extraordinary rejoicing. (Comp. 1 Samuel 18:6; Psalms 68:11; Song of Solomon 3:11; Wis. 2:8; Jdt. 15:13; 3Ma. 7:16.)

Verse 4

(4) For ever and ever.—This is merely a term for indefinite length. (Comp. the common salutation of a king: 1 Kings 1:31; Nehemiah 2:3; Daniel 3:9.) An allusion to the eternal kingdom of the Messiah is not to be forced on the passage.

Verse 6

(6) Most blessed.—Literally, blessings. The idiom is similar to that in Psalms 1:1.

With thy countenance.—Rather, In thy presence. (Comp. Psalms 16:11.)

Verse 8

(8) Thine.—The psalm has hitherto been addressed to Jehovah. It now turns in prophetic strain to the king.

Verse 9

(9) Thou shalt make . . .—As it stands the figure is most obscure. Lamentations 5:10 is not analogous. Here the fire and not the blackness of the smoky oven is the object of comparison. A very slight literal change gives the sense obviously required: Thou shalt put them into a fiery oven. The figure is not drawn from Sodom and Gomorrah, but from a smelter’s furnace. (Comp. Isaiah 31:9; Malachi 3:3. For the custom in its literal horror, see Jeremiah 48:45; Jeremiah 49:2; Amos 2:1, where the reference is to the Transjordanic tribes.) The Philistines subjected their enemies to a similar treatment (Judges 15:6).

In the time of thine anger.—Literally, of thy face, i.e., by thy very appearance. The dread majesty of God’s face is often thus spoken of (Psalms 34:16; Leviticus 20:6). Here the same awful power of withering the wicked with a glance is ascribed to the representative of Jehovah. (Comp. Proverbs 16:14-15; Proverbs 19:12.) But, as if startled by the boldness of his own figure, the poet instantly refers to Jehovah.

In his wrath.—Literally, in his nostril, in direct parallelism with “face” in last clause.

Verse 10

(10) Their fruit.—More fully, “fruit of the womb” (Psalms 127:3; Psalms 132:11).

Verse 11

(11) For they.—Better, though they have intended evil against thee, have plotted mischief, they have no power at all.

Verse 12

(12) Therefore.—Literally, for thou shalt put them shoulder (pones eos dorsum, Vulg.). Upon thy strings thou shalt aim against the face of them. Ewald renders: “Shalt strike them back;” but the English version seems to explain rightly To “give the neck of an enemy” (Psalms 18:4) is a similar form of expression.

Verse 13

(13) Thou.—Again the song turns to address Jehovah.

So will we sing and praise.—Better, We will both with song and lyre celebrate Thy power.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 21". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/psalms-21.html. 1905.
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