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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Psalms 75

Psalms 75

THE people praises the Lord in trouble, sure of salvation from him, Psalms 75:1, for he has promised to appear for judgment, and, with the omnipotence which he manifested at creation, to establish the tottering earth, Psalms 75:2 and Psalms 75:3. Supported on the promise of God, Israel turns round to his haughty foes, and exhorts them to bring down their pride, inasmuch as the hope of his deliverance is not founded on his earthly neighbours, but upon God in heaven, who even now is preparing judgment upon the pretended conquerors, Psalms 75:4-8. At the conclusion, the people express their determination to praise the Lord continually, for the salvation of which in faith they are sure, and their confident assurance, that they will triumph in the Lord over all wickedness, Psalms 75:9 and Psalms 75:10.

The Psalm contains the complete number ten. This is divided into a three, (at the end of the third verse, there is a Selah), and a seven. The seven is divided into a five and a two. The two of the conclusion, and the three of the introduction, give five, corresponding to the five of the first part of the second half, so that thus both the usual divisions of the ten, are here artificially wrought together.

There are very decisive reasons for maintaining that the Psalm, was composed during the time of the Assyrian distress under Hezekiah. The triumphant tone of the Psalm, does not allow us to descend to the time of the falling, or rather fallen state. Psalms 75:4-8, render it quite evident that the Psalm was called forth by some severe distress on the part of the church of God; compare especially “the wicked of the earth,” in Psalms 75:8. We have here, as in Psalms 46 a catastrophe of a universal character: according to Psalms 75:3, the whole circle of the earth is shaken, and the whole circle of the earth will be calmed by the manifestations of might on the part of God. The catastrophe of the Assyrian invasion was the only one of this kind that ever occurred in all history. According to Psalms 75:2 and Psalms 75:3, the people are quieted in the midst of their trouble, by an assurance of divine assistance. This happened at the time of the Assyrian invasion, by the prophecy of Isaiah. In Psalms 75:6, the places are named, from which Israel might possibly obtain human assistance,—the East, West, and South. The omission of the North, indicates that the enemy had come from that quarter;—and the Assyrians did make their entrance into Canaan from Syria. To this we may add, that the Psalm is closely related to the Psalms 46, (compare at Psalms 4), which undoubtedly belongs to the Assyrian period, and that the following Psalm, which is also closely related, and is inscribed with the name of Asaph, (compare at Psalms 74), belongs also to the same era.

The question may be asked: was the Psalm composed before, or after the Assyrian invasion. Ewald adopts the latter supposition. The inspiration, he supposes, has descried in it the first visible beginning of a great general judgment of God upon all nations. But there are decisive reasons in favour of the former view, which indeed would never have been abandoned, had it not been supposed, that there was an incongruity in conceiving of a song of triumph sung by the church, before the victory, and while the trouble was still immediately lying upon her. In the very Title, “To the chief musician, destroy not, a Psalm of Asaph, a Song of praise,” the expression, “destroy not,” (compare at Psalms 57:1), which does not occur in the Psalms 76, where we find the celebration of the victory, after it had been gained, shows that, under “Lord God, we praise thee,” there lies concealed, “Lord, have mercy on us.” [Note: The Berleb. Bible: “As these words are really a prayer, while at the same time the Psalm is thrown into the form, not of petitions, but of a thanksgiving, it ought to be considered as a thank-prayer, uttered before hand, and containing petitions within it.”] On the supposition that the Psalm was composed after the deliverance had been obtained, there is assuredly too little said about it, and the basis laid for hope in the future, is too narrow. The thanksgiving and the praise in Psalms 75:9, are merely promised for future assistance,—a proof that as yet none had been imparted. Finally, the following Psalm, which was also composed by Asaph, expresses thanks and joy, for the assistance which had been already obtained. The two Psalms make up one entire whole, if the (Psalms 75) 75th be considered as a song of triumph over what had been promised.

The Psalm is consequently to be considered as a lyrical companion to the prophecies, which Isaiah delivered in view of the threatened destruction, as a testimony to the living faith, with which the church at that time received the word of God, and as an intimation to the church at all times, that through a similar faith, she shall participate in a similar deliverance. The exhortation which Hezekiah in his time, addressed to the people, according to 2 Chronicles 32:7 and 2 Chronicles 32:8, is exactly parallel: “be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, for there is one greater with us, than with him: with him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and fight our battles”

Verses 1-3

Ver. 1. We praise thee, O God, we praise, and near is thy name, they publish thy wonders. Ver. 2. “For I shall fix a time when I shall judge righteously. Ver. 3. The earth, with all its inhabitants, is dissolved, I have weighed its pillars.”

The object of the praise of God in Psalms 75:1, is his glory, to the contemplation of which the church has been raised by the announcement of salvation from him. The name of God, (compare at Psalms 20:1, Psalms 23:3, Psalms 29:2), may be considered as near with a two-fold reference: objectively, as when in his historically illustrated glory, he comes near to deliver his people, (compare Deuteronomy 4:7, Isaiah 30:27, “behold the name of Jehovah comes from afar”); and subjectively, when the consciousness of this glory has been awakened in the mind, compare Jeremiah 12:2. The name of the Lord is here said to be near in this latter sense. “Thy name is near,” stands in the middle between, “we praise thee”, and “they publish,” and is connected with the former, not with a “because”, but with an “and.” The “wonders” of God are those which are past, and those which are anticipated by faith as future. One of God’s wonders placed before the eyes, gives living reality also to all the others. With the future, the past also is brought to the present.

In Psalms 75:2 and Psalms 75:3, we have the grounds of the confidence which the church expressed in Psalms 75:1: God has promised to her his help. Both verses contain the words of God, which are uttered in reply to the address of the church: you may well be thus full of my praise, for, &c. מעוד is the point of time which God has fixed for executing his purposes: compare Psalms 102:13, thou wilt arise and have mercy on Zion, for the time to be gracious to her is come, yea the set time, Habakkuk 2:3, Daniel 8:19, Daniel 11:27, Daniel 11:35. To this, God’s point of time, the eye of faith shall, in the midst of suffering, be steadily directed. Arnd: “Our God, who governs the world by his omnipotence and wisdom, has appointed to all things a boundary, and has also fixed a time and an hour for his judgment, and when this comes, he reveals his judgments, and no man can hinder them. God withholds his punishment for a very long time, but at last it comes with certainty, and makes no delay. Even the heathen have learned this from experience, according to the Saying: sera tamen tacitis papa venit pedibus, and also in the words of Val. Maximus, tarditatem poenoe gravitate compensat. That point of time comes when the chastisement of the church has been brought to a close: compare Isaiah 10:12, “And it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the pride of the king of Assyria.” Several, after the example of the Septuagint, give: “ when I take a point of time.” But in this case Psalms 75:2 and Psalms 75:3 stand too much like an aphorism: their connection with Psalms 75:4 is not indicated. On מישרים compare at Psalms 58:1. We have in this and the two following verses the substance of Isaiah’s prophecies as delivered at that time: compare, for example, Isaiah 37:33-35, “Therefore, thus saith the Lord to the king of Assyria, He shall not come into this city, by the way by which he came by the same shall he return, and defend this city,” etc.

The earth, in consequence of the success of the conqueror of the world is, as it were, dissolved, sunk back into its ancient chaotic state, but the same omnipotence which at that time brought its dissolution to an end, shall aid it now. That the first clause refers to the deliverance obtained by the destruction of the Assyrians, is evident from the parallel passage Psalms 46:6-7, “the peoples roar, the kingdoms shake ……the earth melts”: compare Psalms 46:2, “therefore we are not afraid, though the earth is changed, and the mountains shake in the heart of the sea.” Several expositors take תכנתי as a prophetic praeterite: I will set fast its pillars. But תכן never signifies “to set fast”, but always “to weigh,” “to value”: and therefore the word must refer to the creation:

I have weighed, and, in proportion to their size, I have placed them, compare Job 38:4-7. “Whatever our God has created, that he can (and must) maintain,”—in this way, what God has once done is a guarantee for what he will now do.

Verses 4-8

Ver. 4. I say to the proud, “be not proud,”and to the wicked, “lift not up the horn.” Ver. 5. Lift not up your horn on high, speak not rashly with proud neck. Ver. 6. For not from the rising of the sun, and not from the going down of the sun, and not from the wilderness of mountains. Ver. 7. But God judgeth, he putteth down one, and setteth up another. Ver. 8. For a cup is in the hand of the Lord, and it is foaming with wine, it is full of mingled drink, and he poureth out of it, and its dreg all the wicked of the earth must sip, they must drink.

The people, confiding in the promise of the Lord, address, in Psalms 75:4, in a triumphant tone, their haughty enemies. It is clear from Psalms 75:9 th and ( Psalms 75:10) 10th, that it is not the Psalmist, but the Church that speaks: compare also, “we praise”, in Psalms 75:1. According to some expositors, (Koester), the address of God is still continued in this verse; according to others, (Tholuck), in Psalms 75:5 th; and according to others, (Hitzig), even in Psalms 75:6 th. But Psalms 75:7 th, where God is spoken of in the third person, is connected with verse ( Psalms 75:6) 6th, by a “for”, and this verse is again connected in the same way with Psalms 75:5, and Psalms 75:4 and Psalms 75:5 cannot be disjoined from each other. To this we may add, that by these assumptions, the formal arrangement of the Psalm would be destroyed, the Selah stands at the end of the preceding verse, and the expression, “I say”, at the beginning of this one, indicates a change of speaker. In reference to הוללים , compare at Psalms 5:5. Psalms 73:3. Lift not up your horn, i.e. furiously, and from a sense of your strength, and with the intention to strike: compare the fundamental passages, Deuteronomy 33:17, and 1 Samuel 2:1, 1 Samuel 2:10, and also Psalms 89:7, Psalms 89:24, Psalms 92:10, Psalms 148:14.

In verse 5, עתק is according to the accusatives, and the parallel passages Psalms 31:18, Psalms 94:4, 1 Samuel 2:3, the accus., insolent. Isaiah 36, Isaiah 37, furnishes the commentary, where the insolent speeches of the Assyrians are put to the test. “In the neck” is, so that the neck is rendered prominent by it:—the neck more particularly displayed the pride, compare Job 15:26, Jeremiah 16.

In Psalms 75:6 and Psalms 75:7, we have the reasons why the wicked should give up the arrogance and haughtiness, with which they come against the Israelites. They might indeed do so, were the Israelites, in the approaching contest, looking for help from the earth,—for help from the east, the west, or the south, against the north. The enemies might indeed scoff at such foolish hopes. But, inasmuch as the decision comes from above, from Israel’s God, who puts down one, viz. the heathen might, and lifts up another, viz. his own miserable people, it is not a time to triumph but to tremble, in dread expectation of the coming judgment. Psalms 75:6 is to be supplemented from the Psalms 75:7:—for it is neither from the east, &c. that the decision comes, that we expect the enemy to be brought down and ourselves to be raised up. That the Psalmist is not speaking of the quarters of heaven generally, but especially of countries around Palestine, not from the countries toward the east, &c. of our land, is manifest from “the wilderness of mountains.” This is a poetical term, designed to denote the mountainous districts of Idumea and Arabia situated to the southward of Canaan, and in which lay Horeb and Sinai: compare Deuteronomy 11:24, and Joshua 1:4, where the wilderness is named as the southern boundary of Canaan:—what is there denoted by the article is here expressed by הרים . The mountainous desert was designedly named last, and with special accentuation:—it was on this side that Egypt lay, on whose assistance Israel founded his hope of deliverance, according to the foolish imagination of the Assyrian, who, like the world even in our own day, could not conceive of a living confidence in a heavenly helper: compare Isaiah 36:4-6, “Thus saith the great king, the king of Assyria, . . . . On what trustest thou that thou risest up against me? behold thou trustest on this broken reed, Egypt: whoever trusts on such a thing, it will go into his hand and pierce it: thus is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him.” Several MSS. read מִ מּ ִ דְ בָ ר , the status absolutus; and several expositors, heedlessly enough, following this reading, translate: and not from the wilderness cometh elevation. This reading, however, is merely the product of exegetical imbecility. The mere “elevation comes” is not sufficient; it would have been necessary to have added the idea of “that of the righteous over the enemies,” in order to explain the connection of Psalms 75:6 and Psalms 75:7 with Psalms 75:4 and Psalms 75:5, and of Psalms 75:8 with Psalms 75:6 and Psalms 75:7. In Psalms 75:7 th the כי retains its usual sense of “for”; although, from viewing the relation under another aspect, we may use “but”. “God” stands opposed to the earthly powers in the east, &c. The church looks always above. He brings down one: the Berleb. Bible, “who is proud and fancies himself secure.” But setteth up another: “the miserable”: compare 1 Samuel 2:7, “the Lord makes poor and makes rich, he brings down and lifts up.” The Psalmist appears to have had the song of Hannah distinctly before his mind. The Lord will soon show that the decision proceeds from him, as he is stepping forward against the wicked, judging and annihilating, Psalms 75:8. On “the cup of the Lord” as an emblem of judgment, compare at Psalms 60:3. The מסךְ? is not “mingling,” but “mingled drink”, or “wine with which roots have been mingled”, (compare the exposition in Isaiah 5:22), by which its intoxicating power was increased; so that we can refer the מלא and also the חמר to the cup and not to the wine, The אךְ? stands in its usual sense “only”: they sip only, that is, there is nothing else for them than to sip its dregs (the dregs of the cup—כום is used with both masc. and femin.), or they must sip it out to the dregs.

Verses 9-10

Ver. 9. And I will declare for ever, I will sing praise to the God of Jacob. Ver. 10. And I will cut off all the horns of the wicked, the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.

At “ I will make known”, in Psalms 75:9, the object is to be taken from what goes before,— the judgment of God.

I will cut off,—through the grace of God, and in the strength which God grants me. How little reason there is for supposing, that God speaks here again, is evident from comparing the fundamental passage in Deut. (see at Psalms 75:4), from which, at the same time, it appears, at the same time, that the speaker here is not a single individual, but the people: compare also Numbers 23:22.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 75". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.