Bible Commentaries
Psalms 65

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & PsalmsHengstenberg's Commentary


Psalms 65

GOD gives his church abundant opportunity to praise and to thank him, he hears prayer, he forgives sin, and he bestows upon his people the good things of his house, Psalms 65:1-4. As God of the whole world and of nature, he manifests himself as such in the wonderful deliverances of his people, in establishing mountains (and kingdoms), in stilling the tumultuous sea and the agitated nations, so that the manifestations of his power and glory fill the whole world with reverence, Psalms 65:6-8. As such he manifests himself particularly, in the fertility which he, whose fountain is always full of water, imparts to the earth, by his fertilizing rain, and in the blessings of harvest, which spread abroad a universal joy Psalms 65:9-13.

The formal arrangement is, upon the whole, the same as in Psalms 60 : the whole consists of 14 verses, and the main body of 12, divided into three strophes, each of four verses. The only difference is, that the concluding verse here corresponds to the two verses of the title there, containing, as it does, a description of the occasion on which the Psalm was written, and manifesting its connection with the title by the שירו “they sing,” with which it concludes, corresponding to the שיר , a song, with which the title ends.

The object of the Psalm is announced in the concluding verse. It should be sung when “the flocks are covered with lambs, and the valleys are clothed with corn.” Hence the whole, from Psalms 65:1-8, is to be considered as an introduction. We are led to the same result, by the circumstance that it is only the goodness of God, as seen in the blessings of harvest, that is dwelt upon at any length; while every thing else is touched upon briefly and slightly, that the whole Psalm ends with such a special delineation without returning to those general views with which it opened; and finally, that the ninth verse, with which the description of harvest begins, is of such disproportionate length as to shew that the Psalmist enters then for the first time upon his proper subject.

On the relation between the first and second portions of the Psalm, ( Psalms 65:1-8, and Psalms 65:9-13,) Luther remarks: “Although the special intention may be to thank God for good weather and propitious seasons, yet it is the custom of the prophets, when they speak of the mercies and gifts of God of one kind, to speak also of others, especially of his rich grace: so, in the present instance, having designed to thank God for domestic government or for agriculture, the Psalmist takes a wider range, and introduces other two kinds of government.” This is just as it should be: every individual gift of God should lead us to a lively consideration of all the blessings which we receive from him; and it is only when this is the case, when all the rest harmonize with the one string, that we render thanks in a suitable manner even for the one more immediately in view. It is for this reason that natural and providential blessings were so blended together at the Jewish festivals.

Although the Psalm refers to the harvest, yet it would be incorrect to maintain that it was peculiarly a song of thanksgiving for harvest, and especially to suppose that it was composed for the passover, on the second day of which the first fruits were presented in the temple, upon which harvest began. Luther says more correctly, he thanks God for “good weather and a gracious season.” It may be considered as having been composed when favourable appearances presented themselves in reference to the harvest, when God was giving the former and the latter rain in their seasons, ( Jeremiah 5:24), and when, in consequence of this, every thing was flourishing and growing luxuriantly. This is manifest from the concluding verse, according to which, the Psalm may be considered as sung at a time, when the valleys are clothing themselves with corn, (not have been clothed,) and from Psalms 65:9 and Psalms 65:10, where the Palmist speaks of rain as if he saw it just descending. Hitzig has taken altogether a wrong view, according to whom, the Psalm was composed for the Feast of Tabernacles, “when the fruits of the earth had been gathered in, and the seed, recently committed to the ground, was waiting for the early rain.”

There are no traces whatever of any particular historical occasion. It is altogether without the least shadow of reason that the vile passion for historical exposition has referred the expressions in Psalms 65:9 to a peculiarly fertilizing rain, or a peculiarly fruitful year. Israel had been led, in Deuteronomy 11:10-17, to consider the fruitfulness of their land, and in an especial manner, the regular periodical appearance of rain, on which it depended, as a blessing bestowed upon their nation in connection with its moral state; and it is the design of our Psalm throughout to awaken these feelings in the minds of the people—a design which does not admit of special application at any particular time.

The title bears testimony on behalf of the Davidic authorship of the Psalm:—”To the chief musician, a Psalm of David, a song. Compare on שיר “a song,”=“a song of praise,” the title of Psalms 48, Psalms 42:8:—a sense which is especially demanded here by the clause in the concluding verse, “they sing,” standing in immediate connection with “they rejoice.” The originality of the title is confirmed, by its having a place within the formal structure of the Psalm, and by the correspondence which it obviously bears to the concluding verse. Internal reasons for the Davidic authorship of the Psalm, are, the דמיה , an expression altogether peculiar to David, which occurs at the very beginning (compare at Psalms 62:1), the individual Davidic character of Psalms 65:4 the allusion in Psalms 65:5 to 2 Samuel 7:23, and, finally, the exact agreement in regard to formal arrangement between our Psalm and other Davidic Psalms, especially the Psalms 60. The language in no part refers to great and lasting national prosperity. The people are rather, as they were in the time of David, happy, and in the full enjoyment of the divine favour.

The objections against the Davidic authorship are altogether nugatory. Ewald supposes that the poem is not nearly so light and sprightly as David’s Psalms generally are, and that it is only towards the end that the style rises. But it is not in the nature of things that the tone of a poem which returns thanks for seasonable rain, or for a similar blessing, should rise above a certain height. Even in our common hymn books, there is a decided difference in this respect, for example, between harvest hymns and Eastern hymns. Much more may we expect such a difference between such Psalms as the one before us, and those which were composed by David as songs of war or victory. The bounties of God, the guide of nature, as they regularly came round with the return of the seasons, are fitted to call forth rather quiet joy than loud triumph. De Wette supposes that Psalms 65:3 indicates on the part of the people a consciousness of some (?) crime, and therefore refers the Psalm to a later period than that of David. A single glance at Leviticus 16 is sufficient to spew what use we are to make of such an assertion. In reference to the idea, that the mention of the temple in Psalms 65:4 th, is unfavourable to the Davidic authorship, compare Psalms 5.

The first strophe is Psalms 65:1-4: “Compassionate, gracious, merciful, forgiving iniquity to every one daily.”

Verses 1-5

Ver. 1. Thou art praised in the silence, O God, in Zion, and to thee vows are paid. Ver. 2. Thou who hearest prayer, to thee all flesh comes. Ver. 3. Our iniquities prevail against us, our transgressions—thou forgivest them. Ver. 4. Blessed is the man whom thou choosest and causest to approach to thee, that he may dwell in thy courts. Ver. 5. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, of thy holy temple.

The לך in Psalms 65:1, stands exactly as in Psalms 62:10-11, “thine is praise,” i.e. “thou art praised.” The praise comes into notice in so far as it testifies of God’s glory, who furnishes for it rich, and continually new materials: comp. at Psalms 22:3. תהלה דמיה must be considered as a kind of compound noun, like ענוה־צדק in Psalms 45:4: compare also Psalms 60:3. Silence-praise is praise which is bound up with silence, has silence for its consequence, or has the effect of allaying that tumultuous agitation, that distressing excitement, which prevails in the soul till it has attained to a living knowledge of the glory of God: against this, his praise, which quiets all the tumult of the soul, is the only effectual remedy; the more a man praises God, the more quiet does his soul become: compare at Psalms 62:1, Psalms 62:5, Psalms 42:5, and Psalms 131:1. Against the exposition, “to thee is confidence, praise,” there may be urged, besides the harshness of the asyndeton, the fact that דמיה never signifies any thing else than “silence,” and in particular never signifies “trust.” The Berleb. Bible has: “It is not loud praise that corresponds to the infinite majesty of God, but a reverential silence before his presence, which holy souls employ in giving expression to their intensest love.” To this exposition we reply, the Psalmist does speak. Against Ewald’s “reverential and quiet song of praise, of those who contrast the infinite greatness and goodness of God, with their own unworthiness,” we urge the fact that דמיה is entire silence, and also the שיר of the title and the ישירו of the concluding verse. A careful comparison of the other passages in which דמיה occurs, will be sufficient to remove all doubt as to the correctness of the above interpretation. God is praised in Zion, because he there unfolds the treasures of his salvation in the most perfect manner, (compare Psalms 65:5, Psalms 48:1, Psalms 132:13,) and because the only legitimate place of worship was there. Luther: “God had bound to that place all men who desired to meet with, and to worship the true God, so that although they might not be bodily present, they should be compelled with their hearts to turn and look thither. This was the case before Christ appeared. But now God has built for this purpose in Christ a greater and more glorious Zion. Wherever he is with his word and sacraments, there also is the old Zion. On this account, whoever now believes in Christ, and acknowledges him, gives thanks to the true God, in the true Zion.” Those who belong to this Zion, the church, may say now for the first time with perfect truth: “Thine is praise, O God, in Zion.” The paying of vows followed after salvation had been obtained, (compare at Psalms 66:13), and is introduced here in this connection: by sending salvation, thou givest men reason to praise thee, and to pay their vows.

God is a living God, who hears prayers, Psalms 65:2, he is the fulness of strength and of love: he is rich not only for a few, but for all: all to whom the name of man belongs come to him, (flesh is with the idea of weakness and need: compare at Psalms 56:4,) in order to draw from his inexhaustible fountain. Luther: “Whither, to thee? In former ages to Jerusalem, or in Zion, but now no where, except in the Lord Christ:” comp. Matthew 11:28. We cannot with Ewald understand by “all flesh,” all “who at that time lived in Judea.” The ( Psalms 65:5) 5th verse, “thou art the confidence of all the ends of the earth,” and the ( Psalms 65:8) 8th verse, are decisive against this. The difficulty which has called forth this false interpretation, may be fairly set aside by the remark, that every necessity, and every want, is, though an unconscious, yet a real coming to God, a real prayer to him, who is the only helper: compare Psalms 104:27, where all the beasts wait upon God, that he may give them their meat in due season, Job 38:41, where the ravens cry to God, and Genesis 21:17, where God hears Ishmael, not when he is praying, but when he is crying. We dare not, however, on this account, take up the position of Tholuck, that all prayers, even those which men address to idols, meet with acceptance from the true God.

In Psalms 65:3, we have God praised on account of the forgiveness of sin which he imparts to his people. The optative exposition (Luther: “O that thou wouldest forgive our sins,”) is as assuredly wrong as the Psalm before us is a song of praise: the future indicates, as in the preceding and following context, a custom. The דברי עונות is properly matters of iniquities,—they are a something which is too strong for me: compare at Psalms 105:27, 1 Samuel 10:2, 2 Samuel 11:18-19. The iniquities are too strong for the people, (who here speak as one man, for me), as regards their consequences, which they are not able either to avert or to endure: compare Psalms 38:4, “Mine iniquities are gone over my head, as a heavy burden, they are too heavy for me:” Psalms 40:12, “innumerable evils have compassed me about, mine iniquities have taken hold upon me:” and Psalms 130:3. After “our iniquities”—transgressions are thus treated as in a climax, in order that the grace of forgiveness may shine forth more gloriously,—we are to suppose a hyphen added. One would have expected, “they lay me on the ground.” But God comes forward at once, and forgives the iniquities, which threaten destruction. Luther: “Now he has so gloriously celebrated that which was not so abundant at that time, as it was afterwards in Christ, but we should sing this verse more joyfully, and to exult without any intermission, if we have the heart to understand, and the eyes and ears to see and hear!”

Happy are the people, to cut any intermission, if we have the heart to understand, and Psalms 65:4, (compare the אשרי in Psalms 33:12,) whom this God has taken into his immediate confidence! Happy we to whom this happiness has been imparted! A rich salvation, the full possession of the good things, and the gifts which God imparts to his people, is the consequence of this. The house of God, his temple appears here as the place where his people, without any regard to bodily presence or absence, dwell continually beside him, and where they are cared for by him with tender love: compare at Psalms 27:4, Psalms 36:8, Psalms 84:4. The expression, “that he may inhabit thy courts,” (De Wette “in the exercise of the worship of God”) shows that we are not to rest satisfied with the external idea. The, “we will be satisfied,” etc. contains in reality the basis of the declaration of blessedness. This is expressed in the form of a mutual exhortation to partake of the rich feast, which the Lord has prepared. The good things of the house of the Lord are not only “the spiritual joys of God’s house,” but they comprehend also the whole of the blessings which the Lord bestows upon the members of his family ( Ephesians 2:19,) from the forgiveness of sins to outward mercies: compare Psalms 36:8, Psalms 63:5. “The holy (place) of thy temple” (compare Psalms 46:4), stands in apposition to “thy house.” The קדקש is independent and emphatic, because it is in the holiness of the temple, that the Psalmist sees the ground on which there had been given to it such a fulness of blessings.

Verses 5-8

The second strophe, Psalms 65:5-8, forms a transition to the third, inasmuch as, in it, prominence is given only to those manifestations of the glory of God, in which he makes himself known, as the Lord of the world and of nature.

Ver. 5. Thou impartest to us what is terrible, in righteousness, O God, our salvation, thou confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of the sea of those afar of. Ver. 6. Who sets fast by his power the hills, is girt about with might. Ver. 7. Who stills the tumults of the sea, the tumults of their waves, the noise of the nations. Ver. 8. And the inhabitants of the ends (of the earth) are afraid at thy tokens, the outgoings of the morning and evening thou makest to rejoice.

Thou returnest for answer to us what is terrible, Psalms 65:5, is, “Thou impartest to us, when we are in trouble, astonishing deliverances.” The answer comes in the shape of some event—a practical word. In “terrible,” reference is made to such events as happened before and after the departure from Egypt, as Calvin perceived, “O Lord, thou hearest us always, so that thy power now appears in wonderful deliverances, as it did formerly when our fathers went out of Egypt.” “God has preserved the church,” Calvin gives this as the general sense of the expression, “not only by the common and ordinary means, but also by terrible power.” The reference to such occurrences as happened in Egypt, is clearly demanded by the parallelism and the connection, from which it is evident that only such circumstances can be meant as those by which God manifests himself as the God of the whole earth. The word נורא is used of such circumstances in Deuteronomy 10:21, “He is thy praise, and he is thy God that hath done for thee these great and terrible things which thine eyes have seen,” and in a remarkably similar expression of David’s in 2 Samuel 7:23:—which last passage at the same time shows that the נוראות is not an adverb but is the second accusative after תענה : comp. on ענה with two accusatives, Ewald, p. 479. The בצדק denotes the righteousness of God, the property, according to which, he gives to every one his own, as the root of those answers which on account of it are peculiar to Israel: comp. צדיק in Deuteronomy 32:4. Many expositors, without any reason, translate “in grace” or “for salvation.” In the second clause the Psalm says, that the God, so superabundantly rich for Israel, is not poor even for all the rest of the earth. God is called the confidence of all the ends of the earth, in reference to what he is actually in himself, not in reference to his being acknowledged as such. Even the rudest heathen has in God the foundation of his existence, receives from him all that is requisite for his life, and without him must perish. The knowledge of God cannot be always wanting in places, where he is really present. What the living God was for the whole earth even at the time when the knowledge of him was confined within the narrow limits of Canaan, was a prophecy which foretold that that knowledge would be spread abroad over the whole earth. The sea of those afar off, of those who dwell afar off, (compare Psalms 56 title) denotes those who dwell on the most distant sea, just as “the ends of the earth” denote those who dwell on its utmost extremity. The mercies of God are co-extensive with human need. Luther: “One may run over the wide world, even to its utmost extremity, yet thou art the only foundation on which the trust of man’s heart can stand and remain.” Psalms 18:49, Psalms 24:1-2, Psalms 22, Psalms 68, Psalms 57:9, and the prominence given to Elohim in the prayer of David, 2 Samuel 7 shew that it has been without any good reason that an inference in favour of a later date has been drawn from “the wide extent of the inhabitants of the earth, conscious of Jehovah’s power.”

In Psalms 65:6, the mountains are named as being the most secure objects in nature, in the establishing and keeping fast of which, (compare in reference to the participle at Psalms 33:7), the omnipotence of God, which is praised in general, in the second clause, is exhibited in the strongest manner. The conclusion of Psalms 65:7 makes it probable that the Psalmist thought at the same time upon mountains in a figurative sense, viz kingdoms: compare Psalms 46:3; Jeremiah 51:25; 1 Kings 2:12. Luther: “Who is he that has such a kingdom, as that there be under one single individual so many subjects, who must obey him, and so many lands and nations who are held in subjection? This can be none but God. Therefore he ought to be praised and thanked wherever this government remains. For the devil does not behold this with joy, but opposes it in all places, outwardly, through means of wicked neighbours, and inwardly, by disobedient subjects.”

The connection of the quieting of the tumultuous sea, (this also is connected in Jeremiah 5:22-24, with the giving of rain in its season, comp. also Psalms 89:9,) with the tumultuous nations in Psalms 65:7, appears all the more suitable, inasmuch as the sea is the usual emblem of the power of the world; compare Psalms 46:3. In reference to this last expression, Luther: “Like as he stilled Pharaoh with all his people, when he stormed and raged against Israel, as if he would have devoured them. In like manner as he stilled the king of Assyria when he roared and raged against Jerusalem.” Calvin thus gives the sense of Psalms 65:8: “From the rising to the setting of the sun, God is not only dreadful but also the author of joy.” But that the fear and the joy do not stand in opposition, as might be supposed from this remark, but that the fear implies reverence, or holy awe, is evident from what follows, where “the tokens of God” manifestly mean only such tokens as are fitted to fill the mind with reverence and not with terror. The tokens of God are the manifestations of his glory, every thing by which he makes himself known as God, such as those that are named by way of example in the preceding context, and such as those by which he is described in the following verses: our verse is the point of transition from the second to the third strophe. The more lively the sense of deity is, the more susceptible is it of impressions from these signs. And even the man who, with hardened mind, suppresses those feelings of gratitude, which are due to God, cannot altogether withdraw himself from all sense of these, or from all secret misgivings in regard to them. Who, for example, is so deaf, as that the thunder, after striking upon his outward, does not penetrate his inward ear! And even though there were more exceptions to the “they are afraid,” than there appear to be, still these are so completely irregular and unnatural, that the Psalmist might well disregard them. “The outgoings of the morning and evening,” (comp. on מוצא , the place of outgoing, Christol: P. III. p. 300; בקר , and עדב are not places on the earth’s surface, but periods of the day), are the places, the points in the heavens, from which the morning and the evening go out, the east and the west. And the east and the west stand, according to the parallelism, ( the inhabitants of the ends,) for those who dwell in the east and west.

Verses 9-12

The third strophe is from Psalms 65:9-12: the glory of God, which manifests itself in the whole world, is revealed especially in his spreading blessing and prosperity over the whole earth, even to its most remote boundaries.

Ver. 9. Thou visitest the earth, and sendest it a flood, thou makest it very rich, the fountain of God has plenty of water. Thou providest their corn, for thus thou providest for it. Ver. 10. Thou waterest its furrows, thou layest down its ploughed fields, thou makest it soft with rain, thou blessest its increase. Ver. 11. Thou crownest the year of thy goodness, and thy paths drop with fatness. Ver. 12. The pastures of the wilderness drop, and the little hills are girt round with joy.

The verbs in Psalms 65:9 refer, as is manifest from the interchange of preterites and futures, to something going out at the time. It is evident from the connection between the third and the second strophe, and especially between this verse and the ( Psalms 65:8) 8th one, that הארץ is not “the land,” but “the earth.” On, “thou visitest the earth,” Arnd: “The Holy Spirit makes use of a homely word, when, in describing the fertilizing genial rain, he terms it a visiting of the earth. When a visit is made by rich and affectionate friends, they do not come empty, but bring with them a blessing, a good gift, to testify their favour and love. Thus, although God is Lord over all, and fills heaven and earth, he does not at all times leave traces or marks of his presence. But when in time of drought he gives a gracious fertilizing shower, it is as if he paid us a visit, and brought along with him a great blessing, that we might mark his love and his goodness.” The שקק is Pil, from שוק , to overflow: comp. the Hiph. in Joel 2:24; Joel 3:18. The רבת is the stat. constr. properly, there is much of the “thou makest it rich;” comp. Ewald, p. 507. The תעשרנה is the form of the Hiph. with

Arnd: “A rich lord can by many gifts make a poor man very rich. So the earth, when it is not watered by God, is very poor, and cannot nourish us. But when God gives rain, he makes the land very rich.” The channel, or the brook of God, is in opposition to the channels and brooks of earth. Arnd: “If this upper fountain does not give water from above, no fountain or stream on earth will be of any avail; yea, they are all dried up, when there is no rain.” Especially in Canaan did men seek and long for this upper fountain: see Deuteronomy 11:11. What is said here directly of water, is true of salvation generally, both temporal spiritual; compare Psalms 36:8. Arnd: “God’s fountain of grace, the waters of consolation have plenty for all troubled and sad souls, so that none may go away comfortless.” The suffix in דגנם refers to men, Psalms 4:7; the suffix in תכינח to the earth. God, like a good house-holder, provides for men their corn, in providing rain for the earth to make it fruitful. Luther: “Thou art the right master-cultivator, who cultivates the land much more and much better than the farmer does. He does nothing more to it than break up the ground, and plough, and sow, and then lets it lie. But God must be always attending to it with rain and heat, and must do every thing to make it grow and prosper, while the farmer lies at home and sleeps, and has done nothing except prepared the ground.”

The רוה and נחת in Psalms 65:10 are infinitives, and not imperatives, which are not suitable either in this connection, or in a Psalm of praise. The reference to the mere action is enough, as the particulars are given in what precedes and follows: Ewald, 355. The pressing down of the furrows גדודים is properly “cuts,” in all probability a purely poetical term of the Psalmist’s own formation, as the proper term is תלם—indicates the richness of the rain. The מוגג is properly to make to flow. Every thing helps to praise the paternal goodness of God. What he does in the temporal matters, is, at the same time, a pledge and a symbol of the care with which he watches over his own people in spiritual matters, to which every thing admits of being applied.

As the status constr. is never used instead of the status absol. we cannot translate Psalms 65:11, in any other way than: the year of thy goodness, i.e. to which all thy goodness belongs: comp. Deuteronomy 11:12, “A land for which the Lord thy God careth, to which the eyes of the Lord thy God are always directed, from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.” The crown which God puts upon the year of his goodness, (comp. Psalms 103:4) is composed of the instances of that goodness. The “fatness,” is a figurative expression for good things, comp. Psalms 63:5: this follows him in all his foot-steps; his rain (comp. “thou visitest,” in Psalms 65:9), makes every where blessing and plenty.”—“They drop,” Psalms 65:12, with fatness, in consequence of thy visit. The “wilderness” is named as the most parched place on the earth, where the blessing is visible in the most striking manner: comp. Job 38:26-27. The “joy” with which the little hills are girt, is that of men rendered happy at the sight of an abundant year.

Verse 13

The conclusion is Psalms 65:13. The flocks are clad with lambs and the valleys are clothed with corn; they shout for joy and sing. The flocks are clad with lambs, i.e. are rich in them. The blessing of God manifests itself in the increase of the flocks, which find rich nourishment in the pasture fertilized by the rain. On כרים only lambs, not pasture, comp. Psalms 37:20. Against the sense of pasture, we have particularly the article in הצאן . If this were in the accusative, and thus like בר , it would, like the latter word, without the article, or בר also would have the article:—all the more, as the article in that case would mark out the flocks in opposition to the corn. The second clause of the ( Psalms 65:12) 12th verse shows, that the subject of both the two last verbs is the “valleys”—(not men sing). The reference, however, to the title and to Psalms 65:8, shows that the song of the valleys does not come from themselves, but from the joyful men who inhabit them. The אף stands, as in Psalms 18:48, only as a particle of connection. Psalms 60:8, and Psalms 108:9, shew that the Hithpa רוע means simply to “shout for joy.”

Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 65". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.