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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 66

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament CommentaryKeil & Delitzsch


Thanksgiving for a National and Personal Deliverance

From Psalms 65:1-13 onwards we find ourselves in the midst of a series of Psalms which, with a varying arrangement of the words, are inscribed both מזמור and שׁיר (Ps 65-68). The two words שׁיר מזמור stand according to the accents in the stat. constr. (Psalms 88:1), and therefore signify a Psalm-song.

(Note: If it were meant to be rendered canticum psalmus (not psalmi ) it would surely have been accented למנצּח שׁיר מזמור (for למנצח שׁיר מזמור , according to section xviii. of the Accentuationssystem).)

This series, as is universally the case, is arranged according to the community of prominent watchwords. In Psalms 65:2 we read: “To Thee is the vow paid,” and in Psalms 66:13: “I will pay Thee my vows;” in Psalms 66:20: “Blessed be Elohim,” and in Psalms 67:8: “Elohim shall bless us.” Besides, Ps 66 and Psalms 67:1-7 have this feature in common, that למנצח , which occurs fifty-five times in the Psalter, is accompanied by the name of the poet in every instance, with the exception of these two anonymous Psalms. The frequently occurring Sela of both Psalms also indicates that they were intended to have a musical accompaniment. These annotations referring to the temple-music favour the pre-exilic rather than the post-exilic origin of the two Psalms. Both are purely Elohimic; only in one instance (Psalms 6:1-10:18) does אדני , equally belonging to this style of Psalm, alternate with Elohim.

On the ground of some deliverance out of oppressive bondage that has been experienced by Israel arises in Psalms 66 the summons to the whole earth to raise a shout of praise unto God. The congregation is the subject speaking as far as Psalms 66:12. From Psalms 66:13 the person of the poet appears in the foreground; but that which brings him under obligation to present a thank-offering is nothing more nor less than that which the whole congregation, and he together with it, has experienced. It is hardly possible to define this event more minutely. The lofty consciousness of possessing a God to whom all the world must bow, whether cheerfully or against its will, became strong among the Jewish people more especially after the overthrow of Assyria in the reign of Hezekiah. But there is no ground for conjecturing either Isaiah or Hezekiah to be the composer of this Psalm. If עולם in Psalms 66:7 signified the world (Hitzig), then he would be (vid., Psalms 24:9) one of the latest among the Old Testament writers; but it has the same meaning here that it has everywhere else in Old Testament Hebrew.

In the Greek Church this Psalm is called Ψαλμὸς ἀναστάσεως ; the lxx gives it this inscription, perhaps with reference to Psalms 66:12, ἐξήγαγες ἡμᾶς εἰς ἀναψυχήν .

Verses 1-4

The phrase שׂים כבוד ל signifies “to give glory to God” in other passages (Joshua 7:19; Isaiah 42:12), here with a second accusative, either (1) if we take תּהלּתו as an accusative of the object: facite laudationem ejus gloriam = gloriosam (Maurer and others), or (2) if we take כבוד as an accusative of the object and the former word as an accusative of the predicate: reddite honorem laudem ejus (Hengstenberg), or (3) also by taking תהלתו as an apposition: reddite honorem, scil. laudem ejus (Hupfeld). We prefer the middle rendering: give glory as His praise, i.e., to Him as or for praise. It is unnecessary, with Hengstenberg, to render: How terrible art Thou in Thy works! in that case אתּה ought not to be wanting. מעשׂיך might more readily be singular (Hupfeld, Hitzig); but these forms with the softened Jod of the root dwindle down to only a few instances upon closer consideration. The singular of the predicate (what a terrible affair) here, as frequently, e.g., Psalms 119:137, precedes the plural designating things. The song into which the Psalmist here bids the nations break forth, is essentially one with the song of the heavenly harpers in Revelation 15:3., which begins, Μεγάλα καὶ θαυμαστὰ τὰ ἔργα σου .

Verses 5-7

Although the summons: Come and see... (borrowed apparently from Psalms 46:9), is called forth by contemporary manifestations of God's power, the consequences of which now lie open to view, the rendering of Psalms 66:6, “then will we rejoice in Him,” is nevertheless unnatural, and, rightly looked at, neither grammar nor the matter requires it. For since שׁם in this passage is equivalent to אז , and the future after אז takes the signification of an aorist; and since the cohortative form of the future can also (e.g., after עד , Psalms 73:7, and in clauses having a hypothetical sense) be referred to the past, and does sometimes at least occur where the writer throws himself back into the past (2 Samuel 22:38), the rendering: Then did we rejoice in Him, cannot be assailed on syntactical grounds. On the “we,” cf. Joshua 5:1, Chethîb, Hosea 12:1-14:54. The church of all ages is a unity, the separate parts being jointly involved in the whole. The church here directs the attention of all the world to the mighty deeds of God at the time of the deliverance from Egypt, viz., the laying of the Red Sea and of Jordan dry, inasmuch as it can say in Psalms 66:7, by reason of that which it has experienced ibn the present, that the sovereign power of God is ever the same: its God rules in His victorious might עולם , i.e., not “over the world,” because that ought to be בּעולם , but “in eternity” (accusative of duration, as in Psalms 89:2., Psalms 45:7), and therefore, as in the former days, so also in all time to come. His eyes keep searching watch among the peoples; the rebellious, who struggle agaisnt His yoke and persecute His people, had better not rise, it may go ill with them. The Chethîb runs ירימוּ , for which the Kerî is ירוּמוּ . The meaning remains the same; הרים can (even without יד , ראשׁ , קרן , Psalms 65:5) mean “to practise exaltation,” superbire. By means of למו this proud bearing is designated as being egotistical, and as unrestrainedly boastful. Only let them not imagine themselves secure in their arrogance! There is One more exalted, whose eye nothing escapes, and to whose irresistible might whatever is not conformed to His gracious will succumbs.

Verses 8-12

The character of the event by which the truth has been verified that the God who redeemed Israel out of Egypt still ever possesses and exercises to the full His ancient sovereign power, is seen from this reiterated call to the peoples to share in Israel's Gloria. God has averted the peril of death and overthrow from His people: He has put their soul in life ( בּחיּים , like בּישׁע in Psalms 12:6), i.e., in the realm of life; He has not abandoned their foot to tottering unto overthrow (mowT the substantive, as in Psalms 121:3; cf. the reversed construction in Psalms 55:23). For God has cast His people as it were into a smelting-furnace or fining-pot in order to purify and to prove them by suffering; - this is a favourite figure with Isaiah and Jeremiah, but is also found in Zechariah 13:9; Malachi 3:3. Ezekiel 19:9 is decisive concerning the meaning of מצוּדה , where הביא במצודות signifies “to bring into the holds or prisons;” besides, the figure of the fowling-net (although this is also called מצוּדה as well as מצודה ) has no footing here in the context. מצוּדה (vid., Psalms 18:3) signifies specula, and that both a natural and an artificial watch-post on a mountain; here it is the mountain-hold or prison of the enemy, as a figure of the total loss of freedom. The laying on of a heavy burden mentioned by the side of it in Psalms 66:11 also accords well with this. מוּעקה , a being oppressed, the pressure of a burden, is a Hophal formation, like מטּה , a being spread out, Isaiah 8:8; cf. the similar masculine forms in Psalms 69:3; Isaiah 8:13; Isaiah 14:6; Isaiah 29:3. The loins are mentioned because when carrying heavy loads, which one has to stoop down in order to take up, the lower spinal region is called into exercise. אנושׁ is frequently (Psalms 9:20., Psalms 10:18; Psalms 56:2, Isaiah 51:12; 2 Chronicles 14:10) the word used for tyrants as being wretched mortals, perishable creatures, in contrast with their all the more revolting, imperious, and self-deified demeanour. God so ordered it, that “wretched men” rode upon Israel's head. Or is it to be interpreted: He caused them to pass over Israel (cf. Psalms 129:3; Isaiah 51:23)? It can scarcely mean this, since it would then be in dorso nostro , which the Latin versions capriciously substitute. The preposition ל instead of על is used with reference to the phrase ישׁב ל : sitting upon Israel's head, God caused them to ride along, so that Israel was not able to raise its head freely, but was most ignominiously wounded in its self-esteem. Fire and water are, as in Isaiah 43:2, a figure of vicissitudes and perils of the most extreme character. Israel was nigh to being burnt up and drowned, but God led it forth לרויה , to an abundant fulness, to abundance and superabundance of prosperity. The lxx, which renders εἰς ἀναψυχήν (Jerome absolutely: in refrigerium ), has read לרוחה ; Symmachus, εἰς εὐρυχωρίαν , probably reading לרחבה (Psalms 119:45; Psalms 18:20). Both give a stronger antithesis. But the state of straitness or oppression was indeed also a state of privation.

Verses 13-15

From this point onwards the poet himself speaks, but, as the diversity and the kind of the sacrifices show, as being a member of the community at large. The עולות stand first, the girts of adoring homage; בּ is the Beth of the accompaniment, as in Leviticus 16:3; 1 Samuel 1:24, cf. Hebrews 9:25. “My vows” refer more especially to פּצה פּה ׃שׁלמי נדר also occurs elsewhere of the involuntary vowing to do extraordinary things urged from one by great distress (Judges 11:35). אשׁר is an accusative of the object relating to the vows, quae aperuerunt = aperiendo nuncupaverunt labia mea (Geier). In Psalms 66:15 עשׂה , used directly (like the Aramaic and Phoenician עבד ) in the signification “to sacrifice” (Exodus 29:36-41, and frequently), alternates with העלה , the synonym of הקטיר . The sacrifices to be presented are enumerated. מיחים (incorrect for מחים ) are marrowy, fat lambs; lambs and bullocks ( בּקר ) have the most universal appropriation among the animals that were fit for sacrifices. The ram ( איל ), on the contrary, is the animal for the whole burnt-offering of the high priest, of the princes of the tribes, and of the people; and appears also as the animal for the shelamim only in connection with the shelamim of Aaron, of the people, of the princes of the tribes, and, in Numbers 6:14, of the Nazarite. The younger he-goat ( עתּוּד ) is never mentioned as an animal for the whole burnt-offering; but, indeed, as an animal for the shelamim of the princes of the tribes in Num. 7. It is, therefore, probable that the shelamim which were to be offered in close connection with the whole burnt-offerings are introduced by עם , so that קטרת signifies the fat portions of the shelamim upon the altar smoking in the fire. The mention of “rams” renders it necessary that we should regard the poet as here comprehending himself among the people when he speaks thus.

Verses 16-20

The words in Psalms 66:16 are addressed in the widest extent, as in Psalms 66:5 and Psalms 66:2, to all who fear God, wheresoever such are to be found on the face of the earth. To all these, for the glory of God and for their own profit, he would gladly relate what God has made him to experience. The individual-looking expression לנפשׁי is not opposed to the fact of the occurrence of a marvellous answering of prayer, to which he refers, being one which has been experienced by him in common with the whole congregation. He cried unto God with his mouth (that is to say, not merely silently in spirit, but audibly and importunately), and a hymn ( רומם ,

(Note: Kimchi (Michlol 146 a) and Parchon (under רמם ) read רומם with Pathach; and Heidenheim and Baer have adopted it.)

something that rises, collateral form to רומם , as עולל and שׁובב to עולל and שׁובב ) was under my tongue; i.e., I became also at once so sure of my being heard, that I even had the song of praise in readiness (vid., Psalms 10:7), with which I had determined to break forth when the help for which I had prayed, and which was assured to me, should arrive. For the purpose of his heart was not at any time, in contradiction to his words, און , God-abhorred vileness or worthlessness; ראה with the accusative, as in Genesis 20:10; Psalms 37:37: to aim at, or design anything, to have it in one's eye. We render: If I had aimed at evil in my heart, the Lord would not hear; not: He would not have heard, but: He would not on any occasion hear. For a hypocritical prayer, coming from a heart which has not its aim sincerely directed towards Him, He does not hear. The idea that such a heart was not hidden behind his prayer is refuted in Psalms 66:19 from the result, which is of a totally opposite character. In the closing doxology the accentuation rightly takes תּפלּתי וחסדּו as belonging together. Prayer and mercy stand in the relation to one another of call and echo. When God turns away from a man his prayer and His mercy, He commands him to be silent and refuses him a favourable answer. The poet, however, praises God that He has deprived him neither of the joyfulness of prayer nor the proof of His favour. In this sense Augustine makes the following practical observation on this passage: Cum videris non a te amotam deprecationem tuam, securus esto, quia non est a te amota misericordia ejus .

Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Psalms 66". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kdo/psalms-66.html. 1854-1889.
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