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Bible Commentaries

Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Psalms 68

Introduction

Psalms 68

THE Psalmist, in Psalms 68:1-Joshua :, praises the Lord as the saviour of the righteous, and the destroyer of the wicked. Then he casts his eye upon the grand manifestations of his almighty grace on behalf of his people, as seen in their history. First, in Psalms 68:7-2 Samuel :, what he did for them when he led them through the wilderness, until he brought them to the promised land. Next, in Psalms 68:11-2 Chronicles :, the victory and the happy peace which he granted to his people in the time of the judges, until the erection of the sanctuary on Mount Zion. Then, Psalms 68:15-:, the Lord has chosen Zion, which, in spite of all the assaults of the world, he shall never leave, and where he sits enthroned in the sanctuary, with all the fulness of his might: he has just made himself known as the God of Zion, in the victories gained over the enemies of his people. Having arrived at this point, the Psalmist in Psalms 68:20-Isaiah :, turns, as manifestly directed by the ( Psalms 68:20) 20th verse, back from what is special to what is general, so that the first is enclosed within the last; “God annihilates his own and his people’s enemies.” Next there follows, in Psalms 68:24-Daniel :, the description of the triumphal procession in celebration of the victory. In Psalms 68:28-Nahum :, there follows, as based on what God has done at the present time, the prophetic hope of the conversion of all the heathen to this glorious God of Israel; and in Psalms 68:32-Habakkuk :, all the kingdoms of the world are exhorted to praise this God.

It is manifest that in these two last strophes, there is to be found the reason why the Psalm has been annexed to the two preceding ones, in which the hope is expressed, that what God had done for Israel, would operate effectually on the heathen nations.

The originality of the title is supported by the שירו and the זמרו , in Psalms 68:4, the שרים and the נגגים in Psalms 68:25, and the שירו and זמרו , in Psalms 68:32, in relation obviously to מזמר שיר . As regards the formal arrangement, there are seven strophes, each of four verses, corresponding to an introduction of seven verses. The seven is, as usual, divided into three and four. At the end of the third strophe, there occurs an intercalary verse, Psalms 68:19 th, (as is often the case, for example in Psalms 22, Psalms 42), in order that the chief division may be indicated by the number 20: the whole 36 [Note: These remarks are founded on the Hebrew mode of numbering the verses. The title being marked ver. 1st, the 19th verse in the English translation is the 20th verse in the Hebrew Bible, and the 35th, the 36th.] verses contain three twelves. This intercalary verse is marked out as forming a conclusion, by its striking resemblance to the conclusion of the whole, Psalms 68:35.

The title bears simply the announcement that the Psalm was composed by David, and set apart by him for the public service: but is silent as to the occasion on which it was composed. For determining this last point, we have nothing therefore to look to except internal reasons. Many expositors, and latterly Stier, have come to the conclusion, that the Psalm was written on the occasion when the ark of the covenant was placed on Mount Zion: comp. at Psalms 24. Others again have adopted the idea, that the occasion must have been the termination of some war, when the ark was brought back again to the holy mountain. This last view is the correct one. A strong argument in its favour is drawn from the circumstance, that God is throughout celebrated too decidedly as the Lord of battle and of victory. The introductory clause, “God arises, his enemies scattered, and they who hate him flee before him,” gives forth the fundamental tone, and the subject of the whole Psalm; while, at the same time, in a Psalm composed for such an occasion, and of such a length, other subjects also would be introduced. Farther, we are led to a victory as the occasion, by the ( Psalms 68:18) 18th verse, which, like the ( Psalms 67:6) 6th verse of Psalms 67 “the earth gave its increase,” announces the matter of fact which called forth the Psalm, and which ought to be considered as supplementary to the title, and should properly be printed in large characters. Then we have the epithets which are applied in Psalms 68:17 to Benjamin and Judah, and, finally, the close adaptation to the victory-song of Deborah:—inasmuch as the author, in Psalms 68:7 and Psalms 68:8, at the very beginning of his chief division, refers literally to the beginning of the chief division of this song, he declares, as distinctly as possible, that he walks in the footsteps of Deborah, and that his song is to be considered as a continuation or echo of hers, exactly, as in the obviously designed reference, in the opening verse of the Psalm, to the language of Moses, he intimates, that the text and the subject of the whole are taken from him.

We have two data to guide us in our enquiry, as to what particular battle and victory the triumphal procession belongs, which, according to Psalms 68:24-Daniel :, the Psalm was sung. First, the Psalm must have been composed at a time when the holy place was actually in existence on Mount Zion, ( Psalms 68:15-Nehemiah :, Psalms 68:29, Psalms 68:35). The choice is thus very much narrowed. There remain only two great victories, the Syrian-Edomite, and the Ammonitic-Syrian. Second, in the war referred to in this Psalm, the ark of the covenant must have been in the field, according to Psalms 68:1 and Psalms 68:24. It is evident from 2 Samuel 11:11, that this was the case in the Ammonitic war. We may therefore with great probability conclude, that the Psalm was composed after the capture of Rabbah, ( 2 Samuel 12:26-Obadiah :), which terminated that war, the most dangerous with which David had to do. It was quite in accordance with David’s usual manner to celebrate a great religious festival at the close of such a war. The character of conclusiveness which our Psalm so manifestly bears, is in favour of this view. That war was the last important external war in which David engaged, and, from existing circumstances, he might pretty confidently conclude that it would be so. The name of Solomon, which soon after this he gave to his son, shows that he considered peace as now secured for a long time.

Modern criticism has attacked also this Psalm. Many, with Ewald at their head, would bring it down to a period after the captivity: a mistake well fitted to fill the mind with astonishment! The character of the language and of the description, which Amyraldus [Note: “There are in it poetic descriptions, and bold metaphors, frequent apostrophes, magnificent prosopopoeias, and words which are of rare occurrence, and well selected, and therefore not easily understood.

It has also others which are quite easy; it has doctrines sufficiently well explained to be understood and expressed in, ordinary language.”] first referred to in very appropriate language, is sufficient to prove this. Boettcher (Probes. p. 64,) says: “From its antique language, its impressive descriptions, the fresh and powerful tone of its poetry, it is assuredly one of the most ancient monuments of Hebrew poetry.” Hitzig “Before every thing else, the Psalm, to an attentive reader, conveys the impression of the highest originality.... The poem may be pronounced with confidence to be as remarkable for its antiquity as for its originality; for the later writers could avail themselves of the use of models, and they have actually used them and imitated them.” The idea of Ewald, which he makes use of to counteract these considerations, viz. that the Psalm is made up of a series of splendid passages from poems now lost, must be characterized as merely an arbitrary one, at least so long as not one single passage can be pointed out, as borrowed by the author from any of those pieces at present in our possession, which were composed after the time of David. The distance between those passages assumed to be borrowed, and others where the sense is plain and easy, occurs in the same way, for example, in Psalms 18, which even Ewald allows to be genuine.

There is a close connection between that Psalm and the one now before us, so much so, that the description given by Amyraldus applies with equal truth to both; there are also characteristic references in particular expressions to other Davidic Psalms, and to these alone.

But the reasons, drawn from the matters of fact, referred to in the Psalm are much more decisive. It is of great importance here, that, according to Psalms 68:27, Zabulon and Naphtali take part in the procession, next after Judah and Benjamin. After the captivity, some of the descendants of the ten tribes might be found united with Judah, but assuredly there could be no such thing as the distinct tribes of Zabulon and Naphtali with their princes. During the whole period when the two divided kingdoms existed in a state of juxtaposition to each other, there could be no union between Benjamin and Judah and Zabulon and Naphtali; and even though they were sometimes united, (a supposition on which Hitzig would interpret the ( Psalms 68:27) 27th verse,) yet, apart from the consideration, that next to Judah, Ephraim was the tribe that would have been named, and that the naming of the northern and southern tribes is equivalent to naming a part instead of the whole, especially when Psalms 60:7 is compared, it is utterly impossible that these tribes could ever have marched in company as part of a triumphal procession in the temple at Jerusalem. We must, moreover, go higher than the division of the kingdom to the time of David. For under Solomon there were no such war and victory as the Psalm before us refers to. Farther, the epithets applied to Judah and Benjamin, in Psalms 68:27, can be explained only from the relations which existed in the time of David: the mention of Egypt as representing the power of the heathen world, shows that the Psalm was composed before the rise of the great Asiatic monarchies, especially the Assyrian: Israel appears everywhere as a warlike and victorious nation, (compare especially Psalms 68:21-Isaiah :), and an event such as that which, according to Psalms 68:18, formed the subject matter of the Psalm, could not take place subsequent to the captivity.

The reasons which have been urged against the Davidic authorship of the Psalm are very trifling. In reference to the mention of the temple in Psalms 68:29, compare at Psalms 5:7. That in Psalms 68:30 and Psalms 68:31 there are no traces whatever of such hostile relations towards Egypt which did not exist in David’s time, and that Egypt is named simply as representing the might of the world as separated from God, which it still did in David’s time, and continued to do until the rise of the great Assyrian monarchy, is evident from the circumstance that Cush, which never was in a state of hostility to Israel, is named next after Egypt.

Verses 1-6

The Introduction contains first the title, after that the praise of God, as the Almighty destroyer of the wicked, and the deliverer of the just, ( Psalms 68:1-Leviticus :), and finally, the exhortation to praise him as the helper of all the miserable, ( Psalms 68:4-Joshua :).

Title. To the Chief Musician, by David, a song of praise. Ver. 1. God arises, his enemies are scattered, and those that hate him flee before him. Ver. 2. As smoke vanishes, thou makest them to vanish, as wax melts before the fire, the wicked perish before God. Ver. 3. And the righteous are glad, they shout for joy before God, and exult for gladness.

Ver. 4. Sing to God, sing praise to his name, make a way for him, who rideth forward in the deserts, he is called Lord, and rejoice before him. Ver. 5. A father of the orphans, and judge of the widows is God, in his holy habitation. Ver. 6. God makes the solitary to dwell in houses, he brings out the prisoners to prosperity, yet the rebels inhabit a dry land. On Psalms 68:1, Calvin: “This verse forms as it were the preface, in which David announces the subject on which he is to speak throughout the Psalm. The substance is: though God rest for a time while the ungodly cruelly and boldly oppress the church, yet at last he rises up as the avenger; and the faithful have sufficient protection in his help, as soon as he only stretches out his hand against the ungodly.” As the preceding Psalm rises on the basis of the Mosaic blessing, the present one is closely related to the words which according to Numbers 10:35, Moses uttered on the setting forward of the ark of the covenant, “Rise up, Lord, and let thine enemies be scattered, and let them that hate thee flee before thee.” There is all the greater propriety in this reference, inasmuch as these words were spoken for all times, and were designed to inspire with courage in every age the little flock in presence of a whole hostile world: one single look at the ark of the covenant, whose place, under the New Testament, Christ occupies (compare Christology, Part III. on Jeremiah 3:16), and all enemies sink down into nothing. There are only two variations from the fundamental passage. 1. What Moses expressed in the form of a prayer— arise,

David expresses in the form of an invariable sequence: he rises=he needs only to rise. Several interpreters translate erroneously: “May he arise”: David in this case would assuredly have written קומה : the language, moreover, in the following verses, is not that of prayer, but of affirmation. 2. Instead of Jehovah, David uses Elohim; and this name is the one which is generally used throughout the Psalm; Jehovah occurs only twice, in Psalms 68:16 and Psalms 68:20, and Jah twice, in Psalms 68:4 and Psalms 68:18. The reason of this has been given in the Beiträge, 3, p. 299. It lies in the misuse of the name Jehovah, which changed the name that was in itself the stronger, into the weaker. It is also remarked in the same place, that in such passages Jehovah is in the back ground, and that the simple Elohim is equivalent to Jehovah Elohim,: comp. the Jah Elohim in Psalms 68:18 th.

Tholuck has given an admirable view of the contents of this verse, “as the great theme, which is continually being repeated, always under new forms, in the history of the kingdom of God upon earth, until the final judgment shall comprehend and complete all earlier judgments of God.” Luther, after Augustine, has given great prominence to the verification which the verse received at the resurrection of Christ: “When Christ died, God acted as if he were asleep and did not see the raging Jews, he permitted them to gather strength and to assemble, and the poor disciples fled and were scattered. But when the Jews thought that they had gained the victory, now that Christ was laid in the grave, God awakes and calls Christ from the dead. Then the tables are turned: the disciples assemble, the Jews divide, some to grace who believe, others to wrath who are destroyed by the Romans.” What, happened to the keepers at the sepulchre, ( Matthew 28:4), was a remarkable illustration of the contents of this verse. The Berleb. Bible: “St. Antonius, as Athanasius relates, is reported to have made great use of these two verses when he was assailed by the Devil. And there is no doubt that one may make very important use of them, in each and every assault and temptation of the evil one, when we let ourselves he brought under his power . . . . Ah! that we would only permit him (God) to rise up! But we often suppress his work within us. Hence it is no wonder that the work of our salvation goes forward so slowly.”

Luther on Psalms 68:2: “Two beautiful emblems, smoke and wax; the smoke disappears before the wind, the wax before the fire. It is most contemptuous to compare, to smoke, and wax, such mighty enemies, who think that they can combat heaven and earth.” For the sake of the similarity in the termination, we have the rare instead of the usual form (הִ נּ ָ דֵ ף ) of the infinitive in Niphal of נדף (the word is used in a similar connection in Psalms 1:4); in like manner the Nun is retained in תנדף , and for the same reason the suffix is dropped, which could be easily spared, referring to the haters of God: compare on the omission of the suffix, for similar reasons, Psalms 40:3, Psalms 52:6. The image of wax is employed also in Psalms 22:14. It appears that, in this and in the following verse, there is a reference to the conclusion of the song of Deborah, Psalms 68:31: “So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord, but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might:” just as at the beginning of the main division there is a reference to the beginning of the same song.

By the “righteous” in Psalms 68:3, in opposition to the “wicked,” in Psalms 68:2, the Psalmist means, in the first instance, according to the occasion of the Psalm, in the first instance, Israel in reference to their heathen enemies. We are not, however, on this account, to imagine that he considered every Israelite after the flesh to be a righteous man: compare the introduction to Psalms 9. The wicked among the Israelites are, on the contrary, by this very designation of those to whom the salvation of God is appointed, excluded from the promise, and thrown into the region of the threatening. The לפני stands in opposition to מפני in verse Psalms 68:1 and Psalms 68:2. Destruction goes forth from the angry face of God against the wicked, the righteous rejoice before his gracious face.

The exhortation to praise God, in Psalms 68:4, first rises out of the representation of his glory in Psalms 68:1-Leviticus :, and has afterwards a wider basis assigned to it in Psalms 68:5 and Psalms 68:6. On “his name,” comp. Psalms 66:1. In the phrase, make a way (סלל is “to throw up a military road,” “to make a way,”) for him who rides forward in the deserts, (רכב is used as at Psalms 68:33, where ב marks the ground rode over), there lies at bottom a spiritual application of the march through the wilderness, to which reference is made in the first verse, and which the Psalmist describes at length in Psalms 68:7-1 Samuel :. God always goes at the head of his people through the deserts [Note: Compare in reference to ערבה the author’s treatise on Balaam, p. 230. ערבה , in a geographical sense, is the heart of the country through the Israelites moved during the forty years’ journey.] of suffering and need; in every wilderness of trouble they find in him a true leader. Psalms 68:5 and Psalms 68:6 are to be considered as the expansion of “riding through the deserts,” and leave no room for doubt as to the meaning.” Compare on similar spiritual applications of the march through the wilderness, the Christology, P. III. on Hosea 2:16, and also the observations made on Psalms 66:6. The preparing of the way before the heavenly king, by which we open up the way, so that he comes in to us, in the wilderness of life, and guides us in it, can be nothing else, in this passage, than songs of praise, the joyful recognition of his mighty deeds and of his glory; for it is of this only that the Psalmist speaks in the preceding and following verses. Comp. Psalms 50:15, Psalms 50:23. Isaiah 40:3-Numbers :, alludes to our passage, where, however, the preparation of the way is that of repentance, and Malachi 3:1 refers again to Isaiah. “His name is in Jah”=“he is called Jah”: comp, on the ב , Ewald, § 521. The name Jah, a contraction of Jehovah, is first used in the song of Moses, Exodus 15:2; and there can be no doubt that this passage is to be considered as the proper fundamental passage to all the rest. The name did not come into common use, but was generally borrowed only from that passage. For otherwise we would not find it occurring only in expressions of a highly poetic character. Stier has correctly remarked that Jah, as the concentration of Jehovah, is the more emphatic term. At all events, there is less regard paid here to the derivation and original sense of the name, than there is to the fulness of associations connected with it throughout the whole course of time.

In Psalms 68:5 and Psalms 68:6, we have the foundation of the exhortation to praise God in Psalms 68:4, and, at the same time, an explanation and expansion of the clause, “he rides forward in the deserts.” “The import is,” says Calvin, “by whatever kind of troubles we are assailed, let it be our consolation that we are in the hands of God, who is able to ease our pains and to unburden us of our cares. And even though the ungodly prosper for a while, yet, in the end, those very events, which seemed to be prosperous, will work out their ruin.” Arnd: “And the meaning of the Holy Ghost is, that God the Lord is a gracious, a friendly God and King, whose first, highest, and principal work it is, to give most attention to the miserable, that is, to those persons who ought to be most pitied because they are helpless and comfortless. Great potentates in the world do not act thus: they respect the noblest and the richest in the land, the men who may adorn their court and strengthen their power and authority. But the highest glory of God is to compassionate the miserable.” That by the widows, etc., we are not exactly to understand Israel, is evident from the plural, from those passages in the law, in which widows and orphans, in the proper sense, are represented as objects of peculiar regard to God, and are entrusted as such to the care of the righteous, (compare for example Deuteronomy 10:18, Exodus 22:21), and finally, from the parallel passages, such as Psalms 146:7-1 Samuel :. On the other hand, the reference to the suffering church, is demanded by the whole tendency of the Psalm, and especially by the ( Psalms 68:7) 7th and following verses, where manifestly, what is here said in general, is brought forward historically in detail: compare particularly “thine heritage when it was weary thou hast strengthened,” in Psalms 68:9, and “for the poor” in Psalms 68:10. We must therefore hold that “the orphans,” “the widows,” etc., are expressions designed to individualize the miserable, and that God’s care over them in general is praised, in special reference to what he does for his afflicted people. Hosea 14:4, for example, is altogether similar, “ With thee the fatherless find mercy,” and therefore also thy destitute people. Even there the “fatherless” are not exactly Israel, but is an individualizing description of the helpless.

In Psalms 68:5 th, Elohim is the subject of the affirmation, as it is at Psalms 68:6. The דין occurs elsewhere only in 1 Samuel 24:16; and there also, as coming from the lips of David, compare Psalms 54:1. The holy—that is the sacred and glorious,—(compare at Psalms 22:3), habitation of God is heaven, (compare Psalms 11:4), in opposition to earth, the seat of unrighteousness and of coldness of heart. Sursum corda is for the widows and fatherless.

The solitary in Psalms 68:6, are those who are destitute of human help: compare Psalms 25:16, where solitary stands connected with miserable. The immediate blessing of which these stand in need, is, to obtain a place where to lay their head, to be brought under roof and shelter: compare Isaiah 58:7, “And that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house.” The Lord manifested himself to his people as one who caused them to dwell in houses, inasmuch as he granted to them possession of Canaan, (compare Psalms 68:10), and protected them therein against their enemies, Psalms 68:12. In like manner he has proved himself to be such to the continuation of the community of the Old Testament, the Christian church, when “that which had previously been everywhere trodden under foot, obtained a firm and permanent settlement in the Roman empire, as happened under Constantine, when the early persecutions ceased.” Berleb. Bible. The same annotator, in the style of true theological exposition, rises above the literal interpretation in his remarks on “ those that are bound:” “partly under the heathen emperors, during the early persecutions; partly, and still more, the men who are bound under the tyranny of the devil, of sin, and of death; particularly also those whose spirit within is bound, so that it cannot rise to the joy of faith; and also those who are bound outwardly to vain pursuits.” And on, he leads out: “particularly brings them out from the slavery of wild lusts and heresies into the liberty of the church and of the children of God,” Rückert renders כושרות by “prosperity.” The “rebels,” or the “refractory,” are the stiff-necked enemies of the Lord and his church. These were, as it were, banished by God, into the wilderness, and shut out from the experience of his fatherly good will. Rebellious Israel (compare Luke 19:14, and John 19:15,) has had to experience the truth of these words no less than the rebellious heathen, Amalek, ( Exodus 17:14, Exodus 17:16), and Pharaoh at their head. The “only” is “it is not otherwise than thus,” “it always happens so:” compare Psalms 58:11.

Verses 7-10

To the general praise of the glory of God there is now annexed a representation of several instances of this, as they took place in the history of his chosen people, first, in Psalms 68:7-2 Samuel :, what God did to them at the time of their journey through the wilderness:—he revealed himself to them, in the giving of the law from Sinai, Psalms 68:8, he fed them and revived them wonderfully, Psalms 68:10, he finally led them into Canaan, Psalms 68:11.

Ver. 7. O God, when thou didst march before thy people, thou, didst walk forward in the wilderness. Selah. Ver. 8. The earth moved, the heavens also dropped before God, it was at Sinai, before God, the God of Israel. Ver. 9. Thou didst send a rain of gifts, O God; as to thine heritage, the weary one, thou didst strengthen it. Ver, 10. Thy host dwelt in the land, thou dost prepare, through thy goodness, a home for the miserable, O God.—

Psalms 68:7 and Psalms 68:8 are borrowed, almost word for word, from the song of Deborah, (Jud. 5:4, 5), whose genuineness has now again become generally acknowledged: comp. the Beitr. 3, p. 116, Keminck, de Carm. Deb. p. 24. Judges 5:4 refers again to Deuteronomy 33:2; Exodus 19:15, ss.; comp. Beitr. p. 117. The “thou didst march before thy people,” does not refer to the march out of Egypt, which is represented as having already taken place: “to march before,” is applied, as it often is, for example, Numbers 27:17, Psalms 44:9, Psalms 60:10, to the leader of the host going forward at its head to some enterprise. In the Pentateuch, God is represented as the commander in chief, and Israel as the army led on by him against the Canaanites: comp. Exodus 12:41, “All the hosts of the Lord went forth out of Egypt,” Exodus 12:51, and Exodus 13:18. There is apparently in the song of Deborah, and here a special reference to Exodus 13:21, according to which the Lord marched at the head of his host in a pillar of cloud and fire. Arnd: “Now, although it was a great glory of the Old Testament, that God was present to his people then, in a pillar of fire and cloud, yet the glory of the New Testament is greater still, because the Son of God has become man: that was merely a shadow and a type, this is the highest consolation, and reality itself.” The ישימון is probably from Deuteronomy 32:10. The Selah stands exactly as in Habakkuk 3:3, between the general announcement, and the expansion, and serves to direct attention to the latter. The connection, thus established between Psalms 68:7 and Psalms 68:8, is intended at the same time to indicate that the ( Psalms 68:7) 7th verse is introductory, not only to the ( Psalms 68:8) 8th but also to the whole paragraph which has to do with the march through the wilderness, onward till its successful termination.

For the first time, in Psalms 68:8, we have the appearances at the giving of the law. The question may be asked, why the Psalmist begins with Sinai, and passes over altogether the miracles wrought by God on behalf of his people on their departure from Egypt. The answer is: it was at Sinai that the covenant for the first time was formally and solemnly concluded: comp. Deuteronomy 33:5, “And he was king in Jeshurun, when the tribes of the people were gathered together.” According to several expositors, the verse before us refers, not only to the appearances at the giving of the law, but also to the whole march through the wilderness. But against this we have the emphatic explanation given by the Psalmist, זה סיני , the reference, which it is impossible to mistake, to the passages quoted above in the Pentateuch, and finally, the connection and the train of thought in the song of Deborah: see the Beiträge. The appearances at the giving of the law, however, are introduced in this passage (where every thing that is mentioned, is brought in, as an expansion of “the righteous rejoice, &c.” and, “a father of the fatherless, &c.”) not as considered in their special import, as an illustration of “our God is a consuming fire,” but as illustrating, in their general aspect, the supreme love of God seen in his thus making himself known to mortals: comp. Deuteronomy 4:33. In reference to the אף , comp. at Psalms 18:48. There is no express mention made in the historical narrative of the rain. ( the heavens dropped), but a dense cloud is spoken of. The מפני is from Exodus 19:18. The זה , masc., stands instead of the neut., as at Ecclesiastes 6:9. “This was Sinai,” “it happened there.” The usual translation, “this Sinai (moved)” will not do: “moved” is not the word, which the sentence supplies, but “dropped,” and this will not suit. After this finger mark, the “before God” is repeated, for the purpose of connecting it with the “God of Israel.” It is he that does this,—all this is done for the sake of Israel.

Psalms 68:9 refers to the provision made by God for his people, in temporal matters, during their marchings through the wilderness,—the manna, the quails, the water out of the rock, etc., according to Psalms 68:4 th, a type and a pledge of what God does for his poor ones at all times. The נדבה means always “free-will gifts:” comp. at Psalms 54:6. This fact is sufficient to set aside the idea that, according to the translation, “ a freely given,” or “ a plentiful rain,” a rain in the proper sense is meant, of which the history of the journey through the wilderness knows nothing, and which, in the connection, would be far too insignificant, as it would have to be adopted at the expense of the giving of manna, etc., facts which, in such a connection, are always thought of. The figure of rain, which was specially occasioned by the mention of rain in the proper sense in Psalms 68:8, points, on the one hand, to the abundance of the divine gifts—and this all the more, that it is not an ordinary rain that is spoken of, but a sudden and violent shower, (comp. Exodus 16:4; Psalms 78:24, “And he rained down manna upon them, and gave them of the corn of heaven.” Genesis 19:24, “And he rained on Sodom fire and brimstone,”)—and on the other, to the pleasing, reviving, and refreshing nature of these gifts. The reviving rain, so often an individualizing reference for blessing, is also well adapted for being used as an emblem of the same: comp. Isaiah 44:3, “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and rain upon the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring.” The נוף , which in Hiph. signifies always to move backwards and forwards, and never to sprinkle,—so that it is even inadmissible in point of language, besides being in violation of the accents to connect נחלתך with the first clause,—indicates that the rain of gifts did not fall in some spots only, but goes forth in equal measure in all directions, these blessings were imparted to the whole people: comp. Psalms 78:27-Hosea :, “he rained quails upon them as dust, and feathered fowls like the sand of the sea, and he let it fall in the midst of their camp round about their habitations.” The inheritance of God indicates, as usual, not the land, but the people of the Lord. The “ And (indeed or even) the weary (one),” points to the greatness of the divine beneficence, which was imparted to a people, in such a condition, to whom no restoration appeared to be possible: God, who alone, in such circumstances, was able still to help, (the emphatic, thou), stretched out his hand to them, when they were lying on the ground wholly worn out through fatigue from travelling through the wilderness, through hunger and vexation. The כונן is not “to revive,” but “to establish,” “to fortify:” comp. 2 Samuel 7:13, Psalms 40:2, Psalms 90:17.

The crowning act of the glorious work of guiding through the wilderness, is, ( Psalms 68:10), the introduction of his people to the land of promise. The חיה occurs in the sense of “an host,” besides this passage, only in 2 Samuel 11, 2 Samuel 13. It appears that this term was one peculiar to the time of David. In 1 Chronicles 11:15, instead of “ host of the Philistines,” we have “ camp of the Philistines.” The suffix in בה relates to the land, of which no mention had been expressly made in the preceding verses, but which the Psalmist had steadily before his eyes:—it was indeed the very object of the march through the wilderness. The suffix is used, exactly in this way, in Psalms 68:14, and in Isaiah 8:21. The second member occupies an independent position. The object is to be supplied from what goes before: a habitation: comp. “God makes the solitary to dwell in houses,” in Psalms 68:6. We cannot translate, “which thou hast provided”: in that case the future would not be used, and to prepare will not apply to land. Israel is called miserable, in reference to their degraded condition, (comp. the נלאה in Psalms 68:9), and their utter helplessness in view of the powerful nations who possessed the land.

Verses 11-14

The second strophe Psalms 68:11-2 Chronicles :, contains what God did for his people from the time of their entrance into the land of promise, till the setting up of the sanctuary in Zion:—he gave them glorious victory and happy peace, which are celebrated each in two verses.

Ver. 11. The Lord gives the word; of the female-messengers of victory there are great hosts. Ver. 12. The kings of the hosts flee, they flee, and the dweller at home divides the spoil. Ver. 13. When ye rest within the boundaries, ye are like the wings of doves covered with silver, and their feathers with the gleam of gold. Ver, 14. When the Almighty scatters kings in it, it snows on Salmon.

The word which, according to Psalms 68:11, the Lord gives, is determined by the connections and parallelism to be one of only of joyful import, the announcement of a victory, recently obtained; and it cannot mean a song of victory. The victory, when gained, was celebrated by women in songs, plays, and dances: comp. Exodus 15:20, Judges 5:12, 1 Samuel 18:6-Judges :. These are the female-messengers of joy: comp. the damsels in Psalms 68:25: the בשר is used in Psalms 40:9, of the proclamation, accompanied with praise, of a salvation already made known. The great army of the female-messengers of joy, is made up of the union of all the separate quoirs during the centuries of the time of the judges, till the erection of the sanctuary on mount Sion. Against the exposition, “messengers of victory to the great host,” there is, first, the article, second, the adjective would in this case be useless, and last, the salvation is not announced to the army, but to the people remaining at home.

According to a common idea, in Psalms 68:12 and Psalms 68:13, the female messengers of victory are introduced speaking. But for this there is no foundation, and the regular progression of thought is altogether against it,—the victory, in Psalms 68:11, the flight and the dividing of the spoil, in Psalms 68:12, and the happy rest, in Psalms 68:13, after the battle, imparted by the Lord to his people. “She that is dwelling at home,” (the נות is the stat. constr. fem. of נָ וֶ ה ), according to the common idea, should denote the women of the house, who distribute among themselves, or each among the inmates of her own house, the booty brought home by the men. But we never read of the women performing any such action in reference to the booty: this task is one which belongs to the men. “She that is dwelling at home,” denotes Israel dwelling again peacefully at home after the flight of the kings: comp. “then shall the people of the Lord go down to the gates,” Judges 5:11, “the shout of those who divide the spoil between the watering troughs.” In this way the ( Psalms 68:13) 13th verse has an important connection with the verse by which it is preceded. For in it the Psalmist depicts the happy condition of “her that is dwelling at home,” that is, of the people dwelling in peace in their own houses after the victory:—a state of matters which, in the book of Judges, is described by the usual phrase, “the land had rest”: comp. the conclusion of Judges 5 and Judges 8:28. The victory and the spoil, which the Lord imparted to his people, in their contests against the Gentile nations, in the season of their childhood, was a type of a more glorious victory, and a more precious spoil. Arnd: “Is it not a valuable spoil, that so many thousands of men have been converted from heathenism, among whom have been so many glorious teachers and lights of the church, such as Justin, Augustine, Ambrose, not to speak of the innumerable martyrs, who were all brought out of heathenism, and were put to death because of their attachment to the Christian faith.”

The “when you rest,” in Psalms 68:13, not, “when you rested,” indicates that the Psalmist does not refer here to one past event. The שכב implies peaceful rest, as at Numbers 24:9, and is equivalent to רבץ , Genesis 49:14. The שפתים , which is used only here and in Ezekiel 40:43, and the משפתים , in the fundamental passage, Genesis 49:14, and in Judges 5:16, borrowed from it as in the verse before us, signifies either “sheep-folds,” or “boundaries.” Against the former of these two senses, there is the consideration, that in that case the passage in Ezekiel would be too much disjoined from the others: the sense of “sheep-folds” is, accurately considered, not suitable even in Judges 5:16, for he who lies between the sheepfolds, is not he who hears the shepherd’s flute, but is the shepherd himself. At all events, however, the phrase denotes a state of peaceful rest. In this condition the Israelites, to whom the address is directed, are, taken figuratively, wings of the doves, etc., or they are like doves, whose wings glitter with silver and gold. The allusion is to the play of colours on the wings of the dove in sunshine. The real import is not at all, as some, with very little taste, would have it, “rich dresses of silver and gold, for the women, derived from the spoil,” nor, even generally, riches of silver and gold, but the peaceful, and, at the same time, splendid condition enjoyed by Israel in the lap of peace: compare the corresponding second figure, snow, applied to the same condition, in Psalms 68:14. It is not quite necessary to connect נחפה with כנפי ; (Ewald, § 568): it may be also connected with יונה ;—”the wings of the dove, which is covered with silver, and as to its feathers” (acc.), or “whose feathers (are covered) with yellow gold.”

Psalms 68:14 points to the bright gleam of prosperity, which covered the land on the prosperous termination of the war, in room of the darkness in which it had been enveloped during the season of hostile oppression:—when the Lord scatters kings, the light of prosperity illuminates the darkness of the land, just as dark Salmon becomes white when covered with snow. The פרש in Pih. is originally “to stretch out,” afterwards, “to scatter,” as in Zechariah 2:10, (compare on that passage Maurer against Hitzig), and the Niph, is “to be scattered.” The God of Israel is called Almighty, because he alone by his omnipotence could bring about the result which is here spoken of. The kings are the kings of armies of Psalms 68:12, such as Cushan, Jabin, Agag, etc. The suffix in בה refers to “the land,” in the former verse, which is not indeed expressly named, but which is clearly pointed at in, “when you rest within the frontiers.” The תשלג is used, as many similar verbs are, (Ew. Sm. Gr. 552, and Lar. Gr. 645), impersonally; “it snows.” The snow is mentioned here, because it has the colour of purest light: compare Psalms 51:7, Isaiah 1:18, “they shall be white as snow,” Mark 9:3, “And his clothes glittered, very white like snow, such as no fuller on earth can whiten,” Matthew 17:2, where, instead of “white as snow,” we have “white as light,” Matthew 28:3, Revelation 1:14. Zalmon is “a hill mentioned in Judges 9:48, which was covered over with great thick wood, (even according to that passage), so that it might be called in German a dark forest, the black or dark mountain.” Luther. There is no need for supplying any mark of comparison before Zalmon: it is rather to be considered as used in a figurative sense for the land, just as snow is a figurative expression for the clear brightness of prosperity. In favour of this simple exposition, we have the agreement between this and the preceding verse; and second, it is in this way that we can see any reason for mentioning Zalmon: the mountain, destitute of any signification itself, would (except in this view) be held as introduced only for the sake of its name. The most obvious interpretation as to sense, “it becomes clear in darkness,” is negatived by the consideration, that צלמון is never used as an appellative, and that השליג neither means nor can mean, “to be white” or “clear.” And against the exposition, “it (the land) was snow-white with the bones of the slain like Zalmon,” we have to urge, that Zalmon was not a snow mountain, that בזלמון never can mean “ like Zalmon,” that השליג cannot be translated “snow-white,” and, finally, that the exposition brings us back from the region of peaceful victory to that of prosperous war.

Verses 15-19

The third strophe, Psalms 68:15-:, describes the glory of God in Sion, after he had taken up there his abode. God maintains his position there in spite of all the machinations of the world though it should be united in hostility against Israel, Psalms 68:15-Nehemiah :: he sits enthroned there in the complete fulness of his omnipotence, Psalms 68:17: he has exhibited this in victories gained over the enemies of his people, Psalms 68:18: praise to him the Saviour of his people, Psalms 68:19.

Ver. 15. A mountain of God is Mount Basan, a summit-mountain is Mount Basan. Ver. 16. Why do ye lay snares, ye summit-mountains, against the mountain which the Lord chooses for his seat? the Lord will even dwell on it for ever. Ver. 17. The chariots of God are two myriads, many thousands, the Lord is among them, Sinai is in the sanctuary. Ver. 18. Thou goest up on high, thou didst lead the prisoners away, thou receivedst gifts among men, yea among the rebellions, to dwell, O Lord, God. Ver. 19. Praised be the Lord every day, they lay burdens on us, the Lord is our salvation, Selah. In Psalms 68:15 the Psalmist tells what Mount Basan is, and, in the 16th verse he rejects the false pretensions which it raises on the basis of its real worth: it is great,—yet Mount Zion is infinitely greater, and vain are all its efforts to change this relation. Many expositors read the ( Psalms 68:15) 15th verse with vocatives, but Boettcher, with good reason, prefers the exposition with subject and predicate: “A hill of God is the hill of Basan,” remarking “that accumulated vocatives are very flat, and that individual appellations become very drawling.” A hill of God is such a hill as, by its magnitude, reminds us of the creative power of God, and has the appearance of being favoured by him, comp. at Psalms 36:6. It will not do to take the hill of God as equivalent simply to a superior hill, because there is an opposition between the hill of God (Elohim, the most general name of God) and the hill which the Lord chooses for his habitation—an opposition which would be altogether destroyed by this exposition. The hill of God is here used as an emblem of the kingdoms of the world, powerful through the grace of God; comp. on the hills as an emblem of kingdoms, Psalms 65:6, and in addition to the passages quoted there, Psalms 76:4, Habakkuk 3:6. The hill of Basan is the high snow-summit of Anti-Lebanon, or Hermon, the extreme limit of Basan, yet really belonging to it: compare Beitr. III. p. 242. In Psalms 42:6, the land on the other side Jordan is named the land of Hermon; and Hermon also in Psalms 89:12 represents the country beyond Jordan. The remaining hills of Basan are proportionally lower; the name hill of God is not suitable for them; they do not admit of being employed to represent the might of the world, and they possess no superiority, even on inferior grounds, over Zion. There was, moreover, a peculiar propriety, arising from its position on the very boundary between Judea and the heathen world, in employing it as a symbol of the world’s might: even in Psalms 68:22, Basan is named as the boundary of Canaan on the side of the heathen world. Compare Psalms 29 (vol. i. p. 478), where the wilderness of Kadesh is named as forming one pair with Lebanon and Sirion: the symbols of the world’s might, on the north and the south of the land of the Lord, are seized with terror at the sound of his voice. Perhaps also the Psalmist noticed that the original name of Hermon, Sion, the lofty, (compare Beitr. III. p. 241), and the Sidonian name, Sirion, ( Deuteronomy 3:9), are both allied in sound to Zion. The term, summit-mountain, indicates that Basan is not an individual hill, but a gigantic rugged mountain range.

In Psalms 68:16, the wherefore,” (comp. Psalms 2:1), points to the folly of the hostile conduct of the kingdoms; Boettcher: “why so fruitlessly.” The word רצד , which occurs nowhere else except in this passage, “to lay snares,” “to plot against,” not “to envy,” or “to look askance,” (compare Ges. Thes.—even the ( Psalms 68:17) 17th verse leads to hostilities expressed in outward actions), makes it manifest that the hills are symbolical of kingdoms. The summit-mountains,—a sort of compound noun, (comp. at Psalms 60:3),—are either the individual summits of Hermon; or the symbol of the preceding verse is extended. The אף “yea,” points to the inseparable connection between the choice and the perpetual habitation: compare Genesis 27:33, “I have blessed him; he shall even be blessed.” The thought of both verses—that grace is superior to nature, that natural gifts must yield to spiritual ones, that the world, in spite of all the power which God has given it, must yield to the church, in which God is present himself with his omnipotence,—is expressed in a similar form in Isaiah 2 and Micah 4:1-Leviticus :, where the temple-mountain will, it is predicted, be exalted above all the mountains of the earth: compare also Isaiah 8:6, where the brook Siloah symbolizes the kingdom of God, and the Euphrates the power of the world.

In Psalms 68:17 the Psalmist, in the words, “the Lord will dwell there for ever,” announces the infinite safety of Zion against all the plots of the power of the world. The main strength of the hostile armies, particularly the Syrian, in the war which had just been brought to a termination, (compare 2 Samuel 18:4, 2 Samuel 10:18), lay in war-chariots. As expressing emphatically the thought that the God, who dwells on Zion, is infinitely superior to these hosts, the Psalmist represents him as surrounded by such a number, as no human king ever possessed, of invisible chariots, led on by his hosts of angels. That the mention of chariots of war has been occasioned by this contrast, is evident from the parallel passage, 2 Kings 6:17, where the servant of Elisha, when his heart failed him, at the sight of “the horses and chariots of the mighty hosts” of the Syrians, is comforted when he beholds “the mountain full of fiery horses and chariots round about Elisha.” Two myriads; the number usually employed to denote an infinite multitude, is doubled. “Perhaps allusion may be made to the two wings, on each of which there are ten thousand: Genesis 32:1-Exodus :.” Berleb. Bib. Thousands of repetition or duplication, thousands multiplied by thousands. Daniel 7:10 is similar: “thousand times thousand serve him, and ten thousand times thousands stand before him.” The Psalmist next directs attention to the point, that this magnificent army of God derives its chief importance from this, that he, “who alone is in a condition to avert a thousand deaths,” is in the midst of it. The last words are to be translated: “Sinai is in the sanctuary:” בקדש , just as at Psalms 68:24. The preceding context must determine, unless we wish to guess at random, in what respect Sinai is in the sanctuary. According to it, Sinai and Zion have in common only the presence of the Lord in the midst of the innumerable hosts of his angels. This, as far as Sinai is concerned, is expressly asserted in Deuteronomy 32:2, “he comes out of myriads of holiness,” and Deuteronomy 32:3, “all his holy ones are in thy hand,” “they serve thee, O Israel:”—a passage to which the Psalmist refers. Compare also Galatians 3:19, and Hebrews 2:2. The sense given by Stier is altogether wrong: “by the presence of the ark of the covenant and the tables of the law, Zion itself was at Sinai.” In Psalms 68:8, Sinai was thought of in reference to the majestic appearance of God. Even the exposition of Boettcher and others must be rejected, as not in keeping with the context: “Sinai, with all its splendour of thunder and lightning, is now in the sanctuary.”

Psalms 68:18 gives the matter-of-fact proof for the assertion made in Psalms 68:17. That the Lord sits enthroned in Zion, in the whole fulness of his might, has been made known, even now, by a great victory obtained over the enemies of his people. The constant use of the preterites makes it evident that the verse refers to one particular event, and cannot be applied to what God is continually doing: and the connection with what goes before, according to which the expressions here can refer only to a favour which God imparts out of his sanctuary, renders it evident that it is not those enemies that are meant, “who were completely subdued, when the ark got its position on mount Zion,” according to Stier, who maintains the hypothesis that the Psalm was composed, on the introduction of the ark of the covenant to its seat on Zion. The ascending of God, which corresponds to “return thou on high” in the remarkably similar parallel passage, Psalms 7:7, presupposes his descending: compare Ephesians 4:9. It denotes his ascent to heaven, after he had made himself known on earth, in deeds of omnipotence and love, that he might there manage the affairs of his people: comp. Psalms 47:5. המרום , the height, denotes always heaven, never mount Zion: compare at Psalms 7:7, Psalms 18:16, Psalms 93:4, Psalms 102:19. Even in Psalms 68:33, God is described as “he whose seat is in heaven:” comp. ( Psalms 68:34) 34th, “his power is in the clouds.” The prisoners, whom God leads away, the gifts which he receives, cannot be taken by him into heaven: he takes them, only that he may give them to his people, “his hosts,” at whose head he had gone forth to battle, and leave them behind him when he ascends to heaven, just as the gifts of Israel to him were given to his servants the priests. Hence it is evident that by the “he gave,” which occurs in Ephesians 4:8, instead of, “thou takest,” the sense is not altered, but only brought out: the “giving” presupposes the “taking,” the “taking” is succeeded by the “giving,” as its consequence. The apostle gives prominence to this consequence, because it serves his object, as common to the type with the antitype. The passage in his view has this complete sense: “he received gifts among men, and he gave gifts to men.” That by gifts is meant, “gifts given reluctantly,” is obvious, from “thou didst take;” the same remark exactly may be made of מתנה , which Gesenius has made of מנחה :—”the tribute was thus designated, which was exacted from a conquered people under the milder name of a gift,” compare 2 Samuel 8:2, “and the Moabites became David’s servants, and brought gifts,” so of the Syrians, in 2 Samuel 8:6. The ב in באדם , as in בם , Psalms 68:17, has the sense of among. The men on the earth stand in opposition to God on high: compare Psalms 58:11, Psalms 64:9. Men, far from heaven the seat of God, fancy that they are secure, but they must learn wisdom by their own painful experience. The gift presupposes a giver, and this giver is denoted by באדם ; the history of David knows nothing either of “prisoners who were sent as gifts to the sanctuary,” nor of “proselytes who gifted as it were themselves to God,” but a great deal of gifts in the sense adopted by us: the connection between prisoners won by victory and riches is a constant one, especially in the transactions of David’s times. By the “refractory” are meant those who, even after the appearance of the Lord and the manifestation of his conquering power, still dared to persist in their rash opposition, such as the Ammonites, in opposition to those who yielded at once, like the servants of Hadadeser, 2 Samuel 10:19. That even the former, should at length give presents, shows with what might God has assailed them on behalf of his people. And even the refractory must give presents to thee, are such from whom thou takest presents. To dwell, O Lord God: and thus thou, after thou hast completed all this, mayest dwell in heaven glorious, inaccessible to the vengeance of the conquered as the Almighty, there: comp. Isaiah 57:15. Several interpreters connect these words with what goes before: “and even the rebellious shall dwell with God.” A singular exposition! שכן , with the accusative, cannot mean “to dwell with any one.” It can be only by a false exposition, that any thing can be supposed in the preceding context to be said of grace towards the enemies, or of their conversion; the refractory, according to Psalms 68:6, and Psalms 66:7, can be considered as referred to, only as objects of punishment. Others: “And the rebellious must rest:”—but שכן signifies always to dwell, and is so used in Psalms 68:16, compare Psalms 68:6. We observe, farther, that the quotation of our passage in the Epistle to the Ephesians is not a mere accommodation, as the character and manner of that quotation evidently show. The descent of God on behalf of his church, and the rich load of gifts bestowed upon it, here spoken of, formed a prelude and a pledge of the appearance of God in Christ, and of the whole riches of his goodness and grace imparted in him to his church. That which was imperfect, affords on the domain of revelation, inasmuch as the former points out the reality of the relation by which that which is perfect is demanded, security for the latter.

The Psalmist in Psalms 68:19 rising from the particular to the general, praises the Lord, as him who is always the saviour of the church. The עמס signifies to lay upon, not to carry, (as Ew. takes). The subject is undefined: men lay burdens upon us: But in reality it is sufficiently obvious that we are to think of men, from the opposition to God, (compare Psalms 27:1, Psalms 124:2, and other passages), and from Psalms 68:18. Even in Psalms 68:16 and Psalms 68:17 the subject spoken of is the help of the Lord Almighty, against the enmity of the world. The ( Psalms 68:20) 20th verse makes it evident that האל is not “even this God,” but that the article points to the peculiar God of Israel, as is frequently the case with האלהים : compare, for example, 2 Samuel 12:16. The same consideration sets aside the idea that God is the subject to יעמס : “ he loads us, he, God, is our help.” Rückert. The “Selah” here indicates the end of a section.

Verses 20-23

In Psalms 68:20 and Psalms 68:23, the general thought is expanded, that God is the helper of his people against the wickedness of the world, to which the Psalmist had already risen in the connecting words of the ( Psalms 68:19) 19th verse. Ver. 20. God is to us a God of salvation, and Jehovah, the Lord, has the issues of death. Ver. 21. Yea, God dashes to pieces the head of his enemies, the hair-skull of him that walks in his iniquities. Ver. 22. The Lord speaks, out of Basan, I will bring back, bring back out of the depths of the sea. Ver. 23. So that thou dashest, the foot in blood, the tongue of thy dogs (gets) from it. The האל in Psalms 68:20, parallel to Jehovah, is equivalent to “ our God.” On מושעות , salutes, Calvin: “Not without reason does he make use of the plural number, in order that we may know that although even innumerable deaths assail us, God has also in readiness innumerable ways of deliverance.” “Of death:” threatening and already approaching. The Psalmist refers, in the first instance, to deliverance from great dangers and troubles, (comp. Psalms 48:14); but in reality the expression applies to death, properly so called, and even to spiritual death. Only he who has the keys of death and of hell, ( Revelation 1:18), can render help in every danger and trouble.

On Psalms 68:21, Calvin: “Because the church, attacked on all sides, by strong and raging enemies, can obtain nothing except by a strong and powerful defence, the Psalmist brings in God armed with terrible power, for the destruction of all the ungodly. It is to be observed that all who annoy the pious, are called enemies of God, so that we need not doubt that he will interpose for our defence.” The “only” stands as in Psalms 68:6. On “he dashes to pieces the head,” compare Psalms 110:6. “The hair-skull” is just the skull covered with hair. The epithet, as appears, serves the simple purpose of poetic effect and description. As שער is in the stat. abs. we can literally translate only the hair-skull walking, (so that the head represents the whole man), not of him that walks: compare Boettcher on the passage

That in Psalms 68:22, the object to be supplied to “I will bring back,” is not Israel, (compare Isaiah 49:12), but the enemies who had just been named, is evident from the following verse, where the dashing to pieces of the enemies is mentioned as the consequence of bringing them back. According to this view, Psalms 68:22 and Psalms 68:23 merely expand and individualize the clause, “he will dash to pieces the head of his enemies.” The remarkably similar parallel passage, Amos 9:2-Leviticus :, may also be appealed to in favour of this view. In reference to the enemies of God among Israel, the prophet there says: “No one shall escape, no one shall flee away, though they dig into hell, yet shall mine hand take them thence, though they mount up to heaven, yet will I thrust them down, and though they hide themselves on the top of Carmel, I will search and take them out from thence, yea, though they be hid from my sight in the bottom of the sea, &c.” I shall bring them back, when they are returning into their own land, laden with booty, after a prosperous inroad: thus David for example slew the Edomites in the vally of Salt after they had successfully arrived at the boundary of their own land. Basan is named, as it is in Psalms 68:15, as the boundary of Canaan, on reaching which, the enemies appeared to be safe, from the vengeance of Israel, and of Israel’s God. This, however, shall reach them even there, as Abraham formerly reached and slew the kings from central Asia, on the extreme boundary of Canaan, Genesis 14:14.

The ( Psalms 68:23) 23d verse is generally translated: “in order to dip thy feet in blood;” Ewald: “that thy foot glitter.” But מחץ always signifies to “strike,” to “dash to pieces,” (compare Psalms 110:6, Numbers 24:8, Numbers 24:17), and it must be used in this sense here, especially as it is used in the same sense in the ( Psalms 68:21) 21st verse, which stands in the closest connection with the verse which we are now considering—a connection which manifests the folly of the conjectural reading תרחץ :

God dashes to pieces his enemies, he dashes them to pieces even when they seem to be perfectly safe. Hence we must hold that at תמחץ the object is wanting, as it is in Psalms 68:22 and Psalms 68:2: so that thou, O Israel, may dash them in pieces; the words רגלך בדם form a subordinate idea: thy foot in blood. The second clause is generally translated: “that the tongue of thy dogs may have its part in thy enemies.” But מן is never used as a substantive in the sense of part, and לשין is never masculine. We must therefore translate: that the tongue of thy dogs may get, from thine enemies, of it (the blood). Arnd: “As we see in the Old Testament, in Ahab and Jezebel, the malicious enemies of the church, and the murderers of the prophets, and in the New Testament, in the case of Julian, Licinius, and Maxentius, in whose blood the conquerors did freely dye their feet; and this happens still, as often as the church of God and the gospel wonderfully gain the victory, are upheld, and protected against the bloody practices of their foes. And so will it remain till the end, according to Romans 8 : ‘for thy sake we are killed, all the day long, and are reckoned as sheep for the slaughter, but in this we are more than conquerors, for the sake of him who hath loved us.’”

Verses 24-27

In Psalms 68:24-Daniel :, the description of the procession in celebration of the victory, in which it becomes manifest that the Psalm was also intended for posterity, for this description is pre-eminently adapted to its necessities.

Ver. 24. They behold thy procession, O God, the procession of my God and King in the sanctuary. Ver. 25. The singers go before, after that the players on instruments, in the midst of the young women striking timbrels. Ver. 26. In the assemblies praise God, the Lord, ye from Israel’s fountain. Ver. 27. T here is Benjamin, the little one, their Ruler, the princes of Judah, their stoning, the princes of Zebulon, the princes of Naphtali.

The ראו in Psalms 68:24, is either used impersonally, they see, or the subject to be supplied is those who do not take part in the procession, the great multitude of spectators, in opposition to those named in Psalms 68:25, Psalms 68:27. The הליכות , properly something gone, (used only in the plural), and next a solemn procession. On “my God and King,” compare Psalms 5:2. On בקדש , which must have the same meaning as at Psalms 68:17, in the sanctuary, and which can be connected only with the procession, it has, with much forced ingenuity, been remarked. Even Psalms 68:26 th leads us to a procession in the temple; for it was only in the temple that the assemblies were held: and so do the expressions, “because of thy temple,” in Psalms 68:29, and “out of thy sanctuary,” in Psalms 68:35. It is not possible to see what objection there could be to a procession in the temple, as there were courts connected with it. Delitzch has wholly misunderstood our verse at Habakkuk 3:6.

The singers, according to Psalms 68:25, go before the music, the players on instruments follow them, because, in intellectual true religion, the Word takes everywhere the first place. Our Psalm itself was manifestly sung. The אחר , properly in the stat. constr. and a preposition, is frequently used as an adverb, behind, with the noun or pronoun omitted when it may be easily supplied from the connection, as it can be in the present instance, with them or these. The hand-kettle-drum, a piece of skin stretched across a hoop, with metal plates on the rim, is at this day in common use in the East. The “in the midst” refers only to the players on instruments. The ( Psalms 68:26) 26th verse contains no more than the rest of the Psalm does, “the words of the singers.” In Judges 5:9 the poetess herself addresses the nobles of Israel: “praise the Lord:” compare also Psalms 22:23. On מקהלות , used only here and in Psalms 26:12, compare at that passage. The assumption that the plural signifies one but a full assembly, has no foundation whatever: in the assemblies, and particularly in this one. Isaiah 48:1, and Isaiah 51:1, furnish a commentary on “Ye from Israel’s fountain.”

In the enumeration, in Psalms 68:27, of the tribes which took part in the procession, the Psalmist must be considered as naming a few as representatives of the whole. In the choice of these he may have been guided, in the first instance, by geographical considerations: Benjamin and Judah are on the south, Zebulon and Naphtali on the north. But this assuredly was not the only, it was not even the chief consideration that guided him. The epithets, which are applied to the two first tribes, and the circumstance, that those only are named, which were particularly distinguished in conflict, show that it was a consideration of this kind, that chiefly influenced the Psalmist. The first Judges belonged to the tribes mentioned, Othneil to Judah, Ehud to Benjamin; Zebulon and Naphtali distinguished themselves particularly in the conflicts under Deborah and Barak,—compare Judges 5:18, “Zebulon and Naphtali were a people that jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field;”—and Saul was from Benjamin, and David from Judah. A comparison of the song of Deborah leads to the same result: every thing that is there said of the tribes bears upon their relation to the enemies. There is Benjamin, the little, their ruler. There, in the procession. The naming of Benjamin before Judah, is explained by the circumstance that Saul, as conqueror of the heathen, preceded David: compare 1 Samuel 18:7. Benjamin is called little, in reference to his place among the sons of Jacob, Genesis 43:33; which, at the same time, typified the position of the tribe in Israel. That even the little Benjamin should be ruler over the heathen, illustrates the greatness of the grace of God: compare 1 Samuel 9:21, where Saul, on his being appointed king, says with astonishment: “am not I a Benjamite of the smallest of the tribes of Israel.” The suffix in רדם , who rules over them, not the Kametz but the Tseri, denotes the accusative. The suffix is to be referred to the enemies, whom the Psalmist throughout has in his eye: the omission of the suffix in Psalms 68:2, Psalms 68:22-Isaiah :, is analogous. A commentary on this epithet of Benjamin is furnished in 1 Samuel 14:47 and 1 Samuel 14:48: “And Saul took the kingdom over Israel, and fought against all his enemies on every side, against Moab, and against the children of Ammon, and against Edom, and against the kings of Zobah, and against the Philistines, and whithersoever he turned himself, he vexed them. And he gathered an host, and smote the Amalekites, and delivered Israel out of the hands of them that spoiled him.” Several expositors give: there was Benjamin, the little, as their leader. But the view cannot be adopted that Benjamin was leader of the whole procession,—at no time, except during the reign of Saul, did the tribe occupy such a position as to entitle it to this honour;—רדה never means to lead, or even to reign, but always to have the dominion, or the mastery over, and the object of dominion is always the heathen: compare the treatise on Balaam, p. 187. This last remark also sets aside the forced interpretation: there is Benjamin, his leader. רדה cannot possibly be used of the patriarchal power of the head of a tribe. רגם is a word of frequent occurrence, and never has any signification except to stone. Hence רגמה , the word here used, cannot be translated correctly in any other way than by stoning. Judah is called the stoning of the enemies, in allusion to David, who put to death by a stone Goliath, the representative of the might of the world. The translation, “the princes of Judah and their multitude,” (Gesenius and others), takes רגמה in an unascertained sense, requires “and” to be added, without any authority, and is besides connected with a sense of רדם which has been already shown to be a false one. It is deserving of being noticed, that the same tribes which appear in this procession as distinguished among the people of God in battle against the world, occupy a very prominent place also in the New Testament. Paul, “the least of the apostles,” ( 1 Corinthians 15:8-2 Samuel : was from Benjamin, Php_3:5 : “the lion of the tribe of Judah,” James and John, James, Thaddeus, and Simon, were from Judah, and the rest of the apostles were from Naphtali and Zebulon, or Galilee, ( Matthew 4:13).

Verses 28-31

In the 6th strophe, Psalms 68:28-Obadiah :, the Psalmist, out of the glorious consequences which the Lord, after such a short abode on Zion, imparts to his people, prepares for himself a ladder by which he may ascend to the hope of the future subjugation of the whole world under his sceptre.

Ver. 28. Thy God hath appointed thy strength; be strong, O God, who workest for us. Ver. 29. Because of thy temple over Jerusalem, kings shall bring presents to thee. Ver. 30. Rebuke the beast of the reeds the herd of the strong ones with the calves of the people, who submit themselves to thee with bars of silver; he scatters the nations who love war. Ver. 31. Nobles shall come out of Egypt, Cush stretches forth its hands to God.

In Psalms 68:28, Israel is first addressed, then the Lord. God has appointed thy strength, in his eternal determination which was made known to thee by his servant Moses. Be thou then strong, O God, on behalf of thy people, and realize therefore thine appointment of his strength, thou who workest for us, who are helpless in ourselves, and hence are looking to thee alone in reference to the strength ordained for us by thee: compare Isaiah 26:12, “O Lord, give thou us peace, for thou workest all our works for us.” The זה stands instead of אשר : it cannot mean “as.”

The exhortation which had arisen from the basis of hope, returns again to hope in Psalms 68:29. By היכל is here meant, in the first instance, the holy tabernacle on Zion: and the temple of Solomon is to be considered as its continuation. Compare Psalms 5:7, Psalms 48:9, Psalms 65:4. The sanctuary, both in a literal and spiritual sense, lies over Jerusalem. The sanctuary of God over Jerusalem is the symbol of his protecting power, of his help-sending grace, which hovers over Israel; and therefore, “because of thy temple,” is equivalent to, “because of thy glorious appearances as Israel’s God”: compare “whose height is over Israel” in Psalms 68:34, and “dreadful is God out of thy sanctuaries,” in Psalms 68:35. The translation, “ for thy temple,” is quite an arbitrary one: the connection between the first half of this verse and the preceding one is violent. As a prelude to the hope here expressed, it is recorded in 2 Chronicles 32:23 “And many (in consequence of the manifestation of the glory of God in the subjugation of the Assyrians) brought gifts to the Lord at Jerusalem.” In reality, however, the hope is a Messianic one, inasmuch as it was only in the days of the Redeemer that the reality of the sanctuary over Jerusalem, the kingdom of God upon the earth, was brought into proper light. Compare Isaiah 60:3, “And nations shall come to thy light,” and Isaiah 60:6, “the multitude of camels shall cover thee, the dromedaries of Midian and Ephah, all they from Sheba shall come, they shall bring gold and incense, and they shall shew forth the praises of the Lord.” There also, the salvation which the Lord imparts to his people, the same as the temple over Jerusalem, is the magnet, which, with irresistible power, attracts towards him the heathen world: compare on Psalms 66 and Psalms 67. The שי occurs elsewhere only in Isaiah 18:7, and Psalms 76:11, and in both places in the same connection as here:—a circumstance which admits of explanation from the fact that the passage before us is the fundamental one.

The ( Psalms 68:30) 30th verse begins with an exhortation, “rebuke”: but that this, as rising on the basis of confidence, has in reality the import of a prophecy, corresponding to “they shall bring,” in Psalms 68:29, is manifest, from the words in the concluding clause, “he scatters,” (which it has been proposed inconsiderately to change into an imperative), and also from “they submit themselves,” equivalent to, “they shall yield, restrained by thee”:—all which stands just as it would have stood, had the opening words of the verse been “thou shalt rebuke.” The beast of the reeds can only be such a beast as has its usual place of abode among the reeds, and to which this belongs as its characteristic mark. It cannot therefore be the lion nor even the crocodile, which spoken of in Ezekiel 29:3, as the symbol of Egypt, where the king of Egypt is addressed as “the great dragon who rests in the midst of his Nile”; compare Ezekiel 32:2. It must mean the second natural representative of Egypt in the brute creation, the hippopotamus or behemoth, of whom it is said in Job 40:21, “he lieth under the shady tree in the covert of the reeds and fens,” (the קנה is used of the reeds of Egypt also in Isaiah 19:6, Isaiah 35:7), while nothing of a similar kind is said of his colleague, the leviathan or crocodile. The חיה , which is never used of any particular animal, leads to the same result: compare the Beiträge p. 258. The express naming of Egypt in Psalms 68:30 furnishes a commentary on “rebuke thou the beast of the reeds.” The following expressions, “the strong ones,” and “the nobles from Egypt,” render it manifest that the hippopotamus does not exactly symbolize Egypt, but denotes its rulers, just as in Ezekiel 29:3, the crocodile is the emblem of Pharaoh. The preceding naming of the kings, and the clause which immediately follows, and is at the same time a general one, “the crowd of the strong ones,” show that Egypt comes into notice here only as the representative of the power of the world, and is mentioned as being the most powerful of the existing heathen kingdoms, on whose submission all the rest would yield as a matter of course. “The strong ones” is a poetic expression for “bullocks,” as it is at Psalms 22:12. Powerful kings are termed bullocks, and their subjects calves, according to the express explanation of the Psalmist. In “the calves” we may say either among or with: ב occurs in the same way again in ברצי . The singular masculine מתרפס refers to the whole of what had been spoken of in the preceding context. The רפס is “to tread with the feet,” and in the Hithp. “to allow one’s self to be trodden upon,” or to submit.” “With pieces of silver,” which they bring as gifts of allegiance: compare “thou receivedst gifts among men,” Psalms 68:18, and “their silver and their gold with them,” Isaiah 60:9. He scatters,” &c.: all nations, even those who are most remarkable for their strength and love of war, must yield to his omnipotence, when once the time has come “to assemble all the heathen.”

In Psalms 68:31 Cush is named, next after Egypt, as representing the power of the world,—as a mighty kingdom, and one invested with that peculiar splendour which attaches to whatever is distant: compare Isaiah 45:14, Isaiah 18:7, Zephaniah 3:10. The name Hasmonean, adopted by the Maccabees, was, without doubt, according to the practice of later times, ( Psalms 45:1), taken from this passage. The Hiph. of רוץ signifies always “to cause to run,” or “to hasten.” The hands, according to Psalms 68:29 and Psalms 68:30, (compare Psalms 72:10), are to be regarded not as lifted up in the attitude of prayer, but as filled with gifts of allegiance: compare Genesis 31:10. Cush will not manifest greater haste in any thing than in bringing gifts to the Lord. Arnd: “There was a glorious church in Egypt at Alexandria, where the holy Athanasius was bishop. The treasurer of the Queen of Ethiopia was converted at Jerusalem, and many miracles were performed in that country, by the Apostles themselves.”

Verses 32-35

In the seventh strophe, Psalms 68:32-Habakkuk :, all the kingdoms of the earth are exhorted to praise the God of Israel: compare at Psalms 66:1.

Ver. 32. Ye kingdoms of the earth, sing to God, sing praise to God. Selah. Ver. 33. He rides forward in the highest heavens of old time, behold he causes his voice to be heard, the mighty (voice). Ver. 34. Give glory to God, whose height is over Israel, and whose power is in the clouds. Ver. 35. Dreadful art thou, O Lord, out of thy sanctuaries, the God of Israel, he gives might and strength to his people. Praised be God!

The ( Psalms 68:33) 33d verse contains the basis on which the exhortation of the ( Psalms 68:32) 32d verse rests. The heaven of heavens=the highest heavens; compare 1 Kings 8:27. The “of old time,” serves to exalt the excellence of God’s seat, and at the same time to point to his supremacy. Allusion is made to Deuteronomy 33:26: “There is none like God, Jeshurun, who rideth in the heavens, as thy helper, and in his excellency in the clouds”: compare Deuteronomy 10:14, “behold the heavens, and the heavens of heavens are the Lord’s thy God, the earth and all that is therein.” The second clause forms a compend of the Psalms 29 Psalm. On נתן בקול compare at Psalms 46:6.

On “give might,” in Psalms 68:34, compare at Psalms 29:1. The rest of the verse contains the grounding. His height is over Israel: his majesty and his glory guide and protect Israel, and the image of these is brightly reflected from Israel’s experience. His power is in the clouds, out of which he causes his mighty voice to sound, Psalms 68:34. History and nature alike manifest his glory.

Out of thy sanctuaries, Psalms 68:35, O Israel: the plural is used, because the sanctuary of God is manifold, as bearing upon the maintenance, the defence, and the government of his church: compare at Psalms 68:29. The conclusion is exactly the same as Psalms 29:11, “the Lord gives strength to his people”: compare Isaiah 40:29, Isaiah 40:31. Calvin: “In fine, he lays down the ark of the covenant as if it were a banner of confidence to the faithful, in order that, in reliance on the promise, ‘I dwell in the midst of you,’ ( Exodus 25:8, Exodus 29:45), they may rest with safety under the wings of God, and may without terror call upon him.”

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Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 68". Ernst Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/heg/psalms-68.html.