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Bible Commentaries

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

Psalms 89

Verse 1

I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.

Psalms 89:1-52. The covenant of promise with David and with Messiah, the antitype to David's seed, Solomon; God's promise of perpetuity (Psalms 89:1-37); the existing state a sad contrast to this (Psalms 89:38-45); prayer to God to remove the contrast (Psalms 89:46-51). The Jewish commentators generally, as Solomon and Aben Ezra, refer the psalm to Messiah.

I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever. The speaker is Israel. "The mercies of the Lord" are (Psalms 89:49) "thy former loving-kindnesses which thou swarest unto David in thy truth;" "the sure mercies of David" (Isaiah 55:3).

With my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations. God's faithfulness to His covenant is made the prominent topic of praise (cf. Psalms 89:2; Psalms 89:5; Psalms 89:8; Psalms 89:24; Psalms 89:33), and forms the ground of the closing prayer. It is strong faith which praises God for His mercy and faithfulness as enduring forever, at a time when, to outward appearance, both have ceased toward His people. The Psalmist resolves to praise Yahweh's 'mercies and faithfulness' forever, because he is convinced they will stand the test.

Verse 2

For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.

For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever - as a building ever progressing to completion, in contrast to one left unfinished and falling into ruins.

Thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens - in order to be like the heavens, eternal (cf. Psalms 89:36-37; Psalms 72:5; Psalms 119:89).

Verses 3-4

I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant,

I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David, my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever. The ground of my confidence that thy mercy and faithfulness shall be for ever to David's seed and people is thy covenant and oath of promise to him in 2 Samuel 7:10; 2 Samuel 7:12-16; 2 Samuel 7:19; 2 Samuel 7:24-25; 2 Samuel 7:29, Thou didst say (supply) I have made a covenant with my chosen." This covenant of God with David is the central axis round which this psalm revolves (see notes, Psalms 18:28-47). In Psalms 89:19-37 the Psalmist sets forth more fully this promise.

And build up thy throne to all generations. Inseparably dependent on this promise is the promise (Psalms 89:2). "Mercy shall be built up forever" (cf. also 2 Samuel 7:13). The literal building of the house of God, in purpose by David, in fact by David's son, Solomon, was closely connected with God's figurative building up of David's house and throne forever.

Verses 5-18

And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O LORD: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.

-Inasmuch as the value of a promise depends on the power and the faithfulness of the promiser, the Psalmist sets forth these attributes as especially belonging to God (Psalms 89:5-14), and infers hence, the blessedness of the people who are the objects of His promises (Psalms 89:15-18). This whole part consists of fourteen verses-the general introduction in three verses (Psalms 89:5-7); the body of the subject in seven (Psalms 89:8-14); and the conclusion (Psalms 89:15-18), four verses. The three of the introduction and the four of the conclusion together make seven, the same sacred number as the body of this division.

Verse 5-7.-God's wonderful might and faithfulness are reverently extolled even by the mighty angels in the heavens.

Verse 5. And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O Lord; thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints. "The heavens" are in contrast with the earth. How almighty must God be, seeing that not only men on earth, but mighty angels in heaven, "praise" Him. The "wonders" are God's acts of omnipotent strength (Ps And in thy favour our horn shall be exalted. So the Masoretic Qeri' [ taaruwm (H7311)], taken from Psalms 89:24. Read with the Hebrew text [ taariym (H7311)], 'Thou exaltest our horn.'

Verse 18. For the Lord is our defense; and the Holy One of Israel is our King - rather, as the Hebrew, and the main argument require, "for our shield (a figurative name for our king) is the Lord's - i:e., belongs to the Lord. So Psalms 47:9 note. 'And our king is of (i:e., belongs to) the Holy One of Israel' He is the chosen one of Yahweh, who is our God. Our confidence is grounded upon this, God cannot but guard him who as our king is our shield, seeing that, as being Yahweh's anointed one, he belongs to JEHOVAH ( Yahweh (H3068).

Verses 19-37

Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty; I have exalted one chosen out of the people.

-Development of the original promise to David, already alluded to in Psalms 89:3-4 as the central ground of the psalm. First in Psalms 89:19-29 God is represented as having promised perpetual deliverance from foes to David, and so to David's people: also special sonship, universal dominion, and perpetuity of his seed and throne. Then the objection is met, that this promise my become void through the unfaithfulness of the seed of the anointed: nay, the promise is unconditional; sins will indeed entail chastisements, but will not cause utter withdrawal of the Lord's loving-kindness and faithfulness (Psalms 89:30-37).

Verse 19. Then thou spakest in vision. "Then" - namely, when thou didst make that covenant which was revealed by "vision" (the very same word as in 2 Samuel 7:17) to Nathan, and imported by Nathan to David (2 Samuel 7:5-16).

To thy Holy One. So the majority of MSS. and the Masora. "Thy holy one" is David, to whom really the vision given to Nathan concerning him was addressed. Hence, the fact that God uses the third person speaking of David does not prevent that words should be considered as addressed to David himself. But all the old versions, and many MSS. collated by Kennicott and DeRossi, which Hengstenberg follows, read 'thy holy ones' [inserting the Hebrew letter]. The covenant was intended not, only for David, but for the people also, God's 'holy ones,' even as He is "the Holy One of Israel" (2 Samuel 7:10). It is the people who complain that God's covenant is failing, and therefore pray Him to keep His promise. David is nowhere addressed throughout. The revelation through Nathan in Psalms 89:19-20 here goes back to what had taken place long ago, the first choice of David by Samuel; and in Psalms 89:22 the promise for the future resting upon the original choice. So in the original passage (2 Samuel 7:8; 2 Samuel 7:12-13).

Thus the sense of God's address to his earthly 'congregation of holy ones' (as before He is spoken of in relation to His heavenly 'congregation of holy ones,' Psalms 89:5; Psalms 89:7) is, 'I have for your sakes laid help on a mighty hero' (2 Samuel 17:10), namely, David, my "chosen'' one. The objection to this reading is that in 2 Samuel 7:8, from which the verse here is derived, the address is to DAVID, not to the people.

Moreover, in Psalms 89:3-4, which is the epitome of this whole section concerning the covenant, David is directly addressed by God, "I have sworn UNTO DAVID my servant," "thy seed will I establish forever," etc. In either case, whether the address be to 'the holy ones,' the 'nation holy' by consecration to God (Exodus 19:6; Isa I have sworn anything unto him, I have sworn this. The Septuagint, Vulgate, Ethiopic, Arabic, and Chaldaic support the English version.

By my holiness - (Psalms 60:6). To profane the covenant would be to profane my own holiness, my essential attribute.

Verse 36. And his throne as the sun before me. His throne shall endure fore ever, as being always in my presence, and under the protection of my face shining upon it.

Verse 37. It shall be established for ever as the moon - (Psalms 72:5; Psalms 72:7.)

And (as) a faithful witness in heaven - literally, 'in the cloud' or 'sky' (Psalms 89:6): not the rainbow: nor the moon, as Hengstenberg: but God is witness to and attests His own oath (Psalms 89:35). Translate, 'and the witness in the sky is faithful.' So Job 16:19, "Behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high" - namely, God. So the Arabic.

Verses 38-45

But thou hast cast off and abhorred, thou hast been wroth with thine anointed.

-The people of the covenant contrast the sad state of things actually with what the covenant seemed to promise. Similarly in Psalms 44:9.

Verse 38. But thou hast cast off ... thine anointed. The suppliant fears, from existing appearances, that the prostrate state of David's house and people is not a mere chastisement with "the rod" (Psalms 89:32), but a final destruction. Still the fact that he brings the case before God, and makes it the ground of prayer (Psalms 89:46-51), as also of praises in the majority of the psalms (Psalms 89:1-37), show that, because of God's unchangeable faithfulness, he still cherishes hope, and keeps fast hold of faith.

Verse 39. Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant - in contrast to Psalms 89:34, "My covenant will I not break" [ nee'artaah (H5010)]. The Hebrew verb for "made void" occurs only here and Lamentations 2:7.

Thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground - the crown of the king (like that of the high priest, on which was inscribed "holiness to the Lord") (Exodus 28:36) was a sacred thing, and therefore to cast it in the dust was to profane it. Compare also Psalms 89:44; contrast Psalms 89:36.

Verse 40. Thou hast broken down all his hedges. The king, as the personification of the State, and its representative, is hereby described as a vineyard hedged in by God's special care. But now 'all his hedges are broken down.' So the Israelite State is represented, Isaiah 5:1-30; also Psalms 80:12.

Thou hast brought his strong holds to ruin - or 'his fortifications,' the king here being regarded as a city once fortified on all sides. So Job 16:14. Thou leavest him now defenseless.

Verse 41 All that pass by the way spoil him also from Psalms 80:12 The Assyrians and subsequently the Verse 41. All that pass by the way spoil him - also from Psalms 80:12. The Assyrians, and subsequently the Babylonians on the north side, and the Egyptians on the south, while contending with one another for the supremacy, passed through the Holy Land, back and forward and made it their spoil.

He is a reproach to his neighbours - namely, to the adjoining nations, Edom, Moab, Ammon, Syria, and the Philistines. Once they feared, and paid tribute to David and Solomon (2 Samuel 8:2-14; 1 Kings 4:21; 1 Kings 5:1-18); now they despise the people of the covenant in their fallen state (Psalms 80:6).

Verse 42. Thou hast set up the right hand of his adversaries; thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice - in contrast to thy promise, Psalms 89:22-23, "The enemy shall not exact upon him; nor the son of wickedness afflict him. And I will beat down his foes before his face, and plague them that hate him;" and 2 Samuel 7:10, end. But even here there is the faith which must at last bring deliverance, implied in the fact that the suppliant looks beyond the "adversaries" and "enemies" to the Lord, as the first cause, who uses the adversaries as His instrument.

Verse 43. Thou hast also turned the edge of his sword - literally, the 'rock [ tsuwr (H6697)] of his sword;'

i.e., the strength of his sword, which would have remained unyielding as a rock, if the rock of his salvation had still been with him (cf. 2 Samuel 1:22 end).

Verse 44. Thou hast made his glory to cease - literally, 'his splendour:' 'thou hast made him to cease from his splendour.'

And cast his throne down to the ground. This and the previous clause apply to the time when the Jewish monarchy was much impaired, and the Kings of Judah were vassals at will to Egypt and Babylon by turns, just before the capture of Jerusalem. Perhaps the date was after good King Josiah had been overcome and slain by Pharaoh-Necho at Megiddo (2 Chronicles 35:22-25); and Jehoahaz his son was only showed to retain the kingdom three months, and was then dethroned by the King of Egypt, and carried to Egypt; and Judea was mulcted in an hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold; and Eliakim, or Jehoiakim, Josiah's brother, was raised to the throne (2 Chronicles 36:1-4).

Verse 45. The days of his youth hast thou shortened - exactly applying to Jehoahaz' youth (23 years in ascending the throne) and short continuing reign. However, though there be allusion to this, the main reference is to the shortening of the promised perpetual youth of David's dynasty and house. One meaning of the Hebrew for "chosen," in Psalms 89:19, is a 'young man.' Instead of having the vigour of youth, he is prematurely old in strength. It is in Messiah that the house of David "shall return to the days of his youth" (Job 33:25; Ezekiel 16:60; Hosea 2:15).

Verses 46-51

How long, LORD? wilt thou hide thyself for ever? shall thy wrath burn like fire?

-The suppliant here turns from lamentation to prayer, that the Lord would remove the present prostration of David's house and people, as being apparently so at variance with His covenant and promise.

Verse 46. How long, Lord? - How long wilt thou permit thy elect people to be so down-trodden? The cry of Verse 46. How long, Lord? - How long wilt thou permit thy elect people to be so down-trodden? The cry of the afflicted Church in all ages (Revelation 6:10), and of her intercessor (Zechariah 1:12).

Wilt thou hide thyself for ever? Shall thy wrath burn like fire? - (cf. Psalms 79:5.)

Verse 47. Remember how short my time is - in Beautiful contrast to "How long ... forever?" (Psalms 89:46;) literally, 'Remember I, what (is my) life' or existence. Compare Psalms 39:5, 'mine age is as non- existence before thee.' Wilt thou be long angry, and my lifetime so short? Compare Job's similar plea, Job 7:6-7; Job 14:1-3. The remembrance of man's short-lived frailty has been often a consideration with our compassionate God, that He should not prolong His anger toward us (Psalms 78:39). God is too loving to fill up with sufferings His people's short span.

Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? They will have been made in vain, so far as well-being in this life is concerned, if thou shouldst give them up to unceasing misery here. In relation to Israel, which is the main reference, the sense is, If God's covenant with David's house and people were to fail, the blessings to the world at large, which depend on the covenant with David, would not be realized and man would have been created in vain. Therefore, it was necessary, for the honour of Him that makes nothing in vain, that they should be realized in Messiah, the Son of David, in part at His first coming, more fully at His second coming.

Verse 48. What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? - `the hand (i:e., the power) of Sheol,' or Hades. My life is short (Psalms 89:47), and I cannot, any more than other men, deliver myself from the stroke of death therefore, Lord come to my help speedily, ere I die. Faith tells us that both the literal and the spiritual Israel shall rise again-the former from national and religious, the latter from physical death, (Ezekiel 36:1-38.)

Verse 49. Lord, where are thy former loving-kindnesses? Faith here rallies, by an appeal to God's former stipulations of loving- kindness to David, which in part he had carried into effect in David's lifetime-a pledge of His faithfulness to the rest of His promise.

Verse 50. Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants; how I do bear in my bosom (the reproach of) all the mighty people. So the Chaldaic. But it is better to suppose no ellipsis-`how I do bear in my bosom all the many peoples;' i:e., that I bear the burden of hostile multitudes (invaders) in the midst of my land Shortly before the final invasion by Nebuchadnezzar, "the Lord sent against him (Jehoiakim) bands of the Chaldees ... Syrians ... Moabites, and ... children of Ammon and sent them against Judah to destroy it" (2 Kings 24:2). This seems to fix the date of this psalm to the third year of Jehoiakim's reign, about 607 BC Compare Psalms 79:1; cf. note, Psalms 89:44. In the days of Anti-christ, Israel restored shall suffer similarly from the conspiracy of peoples invading her land, and shall complain to God.

Verse 51. Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O Lord ... the foot-steps of thine anointed. "THINE" is emphatic: in reproaching him, they virtually reproach THEE; because he is "thine anointed." "The footsteps" are virtually, they reproach him wherever he goes.

Verse 52

Blessed be the LORD for evermore. Amen, and Amen. Blessed be the Lord for evermore. Amen, and Amen - Doxology closing the third book of psalms. The first book contains the Davidic Yahweh psalms. The second book, the 'Elohiym psalms of the singers of David, the sons of Korah, Psalms 42:1-11; Psalms 43:1-5; Psalms 44:1-26; Psalms 45:1-17; Psalms 46:1-11; Psalms 47:1-9; Psalms 48:1-14; Psalms 49:1-20; Asaph, Psalms 1:1-6; then his own 'Elohiym psalms. The third book, the Yahweh psalms of his singers, Asaph, Psalms 73:1-28; Psalms 74:1-23; Psalms 75:1-10; Psalms 76:1-12; Psalms 77:1-20; Psalms 78:1-72; Psalms 79:1-13; Psalms 80:1-19; Psalms 81:1-16; Psalms 82:1-8; Psalms 83:1-18; the sons of Korah, Psalms 84:1-12; Psalms 85:1-13; Psalms 86:1-17; Psalms 87:1-7; Psalms 88:1-18; Psalms 89:1-52. The 'Elohiym psalms are designedly enclosed on both sides by the Yahweh psalms (Hengstenberg).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Psalms 89". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.