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Hymn of War and Victory in the Style of Deborah
Is it not an admirably delicate tact with which the collector makes the מזמור שׁיר Psalms 68:1 follow upon the מזמור שׁיר Psalms 67:1? The latter began with the echo of the benediction which Moses puts into the mouth of Aaron and his sons, the former with a repetition of those memorable words in which, at the breaking up of the camp, he called upon Jahve to advance before Israel (Numbers 10:35). “It is in reality,” says Hitzig of Psalms 68, “no easy task to become master of this Titan.” And who would not agree with him in this remark? It is a Psalm in the style of Deborah, stalking along upon the highest pinnacle of hymnic feeling and recital; all that is most glorious in the literature of the earlier period is concentrated in it: Moses' memorable words, Moses' blessing, the prophecies of Balaam, the Deuteronomy, the Song of Hannah re-echo here. But over and above all this, the language is so bold and so peculiarly its own, that we meet with no less than thirteen words that do no occur anywhere else. It is so distinctly Elohimic in its impress, that the simple Elohim occurs twenty-three times; but in addition to this, it is as though the whole cornucopia of divine names were poured out upon it: יהוה in Psalms 68:17; אדני six times; האל twice; שׁדּי in Psalms 68:15; יהּ in Psalms 68:5; אדני יהוה in Psalms 68:21; אלהים yh in Psalms 68:19; so that this Psalm among all the Elohimic Psalms is the most resplendent. In connection with the great difficulty that is involved in it, it is no wonder that expositors, more especially the earlier expositors, should differ widely in their apprehension of it as a whole or in separate parts. This circumstance has been turned to wrong account by Ed. Reuss in his essay, “ Der acht-und-sechzigste Psalm, Ein Denkmal exegetischer Noth und Kunst zu Ehren unsrer ganzen Zunft, Jena, 1851,” for the purpose of holding up to ridicule the uncertainty of Old Testament exegesis, as illustrated in this Psalm.
The Psalm is said, as Reuss ultimately decides, to have been written between the times of Alexander the Great and the Maccabees, and to give expression to the wish that the Israelites, many of whom were far removed from Palestine and scattered abroad in the wide earth, might soon be again united in their fatherland. But this apprehension rests entirely upon violence done to the exegesis, more particularly in the supposition that in v. 23 the exiles are the persons intended by those whom God will bring back. Reuss makes out those who are brought back out of Bashan to be the exiles in Syria, and those who are brought back out of the depths of the sea he makes out to be the exiles in Egypt. He knows nothing of the remarkable concurrence of the mention of the Northern tribes (including Benjamin) in Psalms 68:28 with the Asaphic Psalms: Judah and Benjamin, to his mind, is Judaea; and Zebulun and Naphtali, Galilee in the sense of the time after the return from exile. The “wild beast of the reed” he correctly takes to be an emblem of Egypt; but he makes use of violence in order to bring in a reference to Syria by the side of it. Nevertheless Olshausen praises the services Reuss has rendered with respect to this Psalm; but after incorporating two whole pages of the “ Denkmal” in his commentary he cannot satisfy himself with the period between Alexander and the Maccabees, and by means of three considerations arrives, in this instance also, at the common refuge of the Maccabaean period, which possesses such an irresistible attraction for him.
In opposition to this transplanting of the Psalm into the time of the Maccabees we appeal to Hitzig, who is also quick-sighted enough, when there is any valid ground for it, in finding out Maccabaean Psalms. He refers the Psalm to the victorious campaign of Joram against faithless Moab, undertaking in company with Jehoshaphat. Böttcher, on the other hand, sees in it a festal hymn of triumph belonging to the time of Hezekiah, which was sung antiphonically at the great fraternizing Passover after the return home of the young king from one of his expeditions against the Assyrians, who had even at that time fortified themselves in the country east of the Jordan (Bashan). Thenius (following the example of Rödiger) holds a different view. He knows the situation so very definitely, that he thinks it high time that the discussion concerning this Psalm was brought to a close. It is a song composed to inspirit the army in the presence of the battle which Josiah undertook against Necho, and the prominent, hateful character in Psalms 68:22 is Pharaoh with his lofty artificial adornment of hair upon his shaven head. It is, however, well known what a memorably tragical issue for Israel that battle had; the Psalm would therefore be a memorial of the most lamentable disappointment.
All these and other recent expositors glory in hot advancing any proof whatever in support of the inscribed לדוד . And yet there are two incidents in David's life, with regard to which the Psalm ought first of all to be accurately looked at, before we abandon this לדוד to the winds of conjecture. The first is the bringing home of the Ark of the covenant to Zion, to which, e.g., Franz Volkmar Reinhard (in vol. ii. of the Velthusen Commentationes Theol. 1795), Stier, and Hofmann refer the Psalm. But the manner in which the Psalm opens with a paraphrase of Moses' memorable words is at once opposed to this; and also the impossibility of giving unity to the explanation of its contents by such a reference is against it. Jahve has long since taken up His abode upon the holy mountain; the poet in this Psalm, which is one of the Psalms of war and victory describes how the exalted One, who now, however, as in the days of old, rides along through the highest heavens at the head of His people, casts down all powers hostile to Him and to His people, and compels all the world to confess that the God of Israel rules from His sanctuary with invincible might. A far more appropriate occasion is, therefore, to be found in the Syro-Ammonitish war of David, in which the Ark was taken with them by the people (2 Samuel 11:11); and the hymn was not at that time first of all composed when, at the close of the war, the Ark was brought back to the holy mountain (Hengstenberg, Reinke), but when it was set in motion from thence at the head of Israel as they advanced against the confederate kings and their army (2 Samuel 10:6). The war lasted into the second year, when a second campaign was obliged to be undertaken in order to bring it to an end; and this fact offers at least a second possible period for the origin of the Psalm. It is clear that in Psalms 68:12-Ezra :, and still more clear that in Psalms 68:20-Jeremiah : (and from a wider point of view, Psalms 68:29-Habakkuk :), the victory over the hostile kings is only hoped for, and in Psalms 68:25-Hosea :, therefore, the pageantry of victory is seen as it were beforehand. It is the spirit of faith, which here celebrates beforehand the victory of Jahve, and sees in the single victory a pledge of His victory over all the nations of the earth. The theme of the Psalm, generalized beyond its immediate occasion, is the victory of the God of Israel over the world. Regarded as to the nature of its contents, the whole divides itself into two halves, vv. 2-19, 20-35, which are on the whole so distinct that the first dwells more upon the mighty deed God has wrought, the second upon the impressions it produces upon the church and upon the peoples of the earth; in both parts it is viewed now as future, now as past, inasmuch as the longing of prayer and the confidence of hope soar aloft to the height of prophecy, before which futurity lies as a fulfilled fact. The musical Sela occurs three times (Psalms 68:8, Psalms 68:20, Psalms 68:33). These three forte passages furnish important points of view for the apprehension of the collective meaning of the Psalm.
But is David after all the author of this Psalm? The general character of the Psalm is more Asaphic than Davidic (vid., Habakkuk, S. 122). Its references to Zalmon, to Benjamin and the Northern tribes, to the song of Deborah, and in general to the Book of Judges (although not in its present form), give it an appearance of being Ephraimitish. Among the Davidic Psalms it stands entirely alone, so that criticism is quite unable to justify the לדוד . And if the words in Psalms 68:29 are addressed to the king, it points to some other poet than David. But is it to a contemporary poet? The mention of the sanctuary on Zion in Psalms 68:30, 36, does not exclude such an one. Only the threatening of the “wild beast of the sedge” (Psalms 68:31) seems to bring us down beyond the time of David; for the inflammable material of the hostility of Egypt, which broke out into a flame in the reign of Rehoboam, was first gathering towards the end of Solomon's reign. Still Egypt was never entirely lost sight of from the horizon of Israel; and the circumstance that it is mentioned in the first rank, where the submission of the kingdoms of this world to the God of Israel is lyrically set forth in the prophetic prospect of the future, need not astonish one even in a poet of the time of David. And does not Psalms 68:28 compel us to keep on this side of the division of the kingdom? It ought then to refer to the common expedition of Jehoram and Jehoshaphat against Moab (Hitzig), the indiscriminate celebration of which, however, was no suitable theme for the psalmist.
The Psalm begins with the expression of a wish that the victory of God over all His foes and the triumphant exultation of the righteous were near at hand. Ewald and Hitzig take יקום אלהים hypothetically: If God arise, He enemies will be scattered. This rendering is possible in itself so far as the syntax is concerned, but here everything conspires against it; for the futures in Psalms 68:2-Numbers : form an unbroken chain; then a glance at the course of the Psalm from Psalms 68:20 onwards shows that the circumstances of Israel, under which the poet writes, urged forth the wish: let God arise and humble His foes; and finally the primary passage, Numbers 10:35, makes it clear that the futures are the language of prayer transformed into the form of the wish. In Psalms 68:3 the wish is addressed directly to God Himself, and therefore becomes petition. הנדּן is inflected (as vice versâ ירדף , Psalms 7:6, from ירדּף ) from הנּדף (like הנּתן , Jeremiah 32:4); it is a violation of all rule in favour of the conformity of sound (cf. הקצות for הקצות , Leviticus 14:43, and supra on Psalms 51:6) with תּנדּף , the object of which is easily supplied ( dispellas , sc. hostes tuos ), and is purposely omitted in order to direct attention more stedfastly to the omnipotence which to every creature is so irresistible. Like smoke, wax ( דּונג , root דג , τηκ , Sanscrit tak , to shoot past, to run, Zend taḱ , whence vitaḱina , dissolving, Neo-Persic gudâchten ; causative: to cause to run in different directions = to melt or smelt) is an emblem of human feebleness. As Bakiuds observes, Si creatura creaturam non fert, quomodo creatura creatoris indignantis faciem ferre possit ? The wish expressed in Psalms 68:4 forms the obverse of the preceding. The expressions for joy are heaped up in order to describe the transcendency of the joy that will follow the release from the yoke of the enemy. לפני is expressively used in alternation with מפני in Psalms 68:2, Psalms 68:3: by the wrathful action, so to speak, that proceeds from His countenance just as the heat radiating from the fire melts the wax the foes are dispersed, whereas the righteous rejoice before His gracious countenance.
As the result of the challenge that has been now expressed in Psalms 68:2-Numbers :, Elohim, going before His people, begins His march; and in Psalms 68:5 an appeal is made to praise Him with song, His name with the music of stringed instrument, and to make a way along which He may ride בּערבות . In view of Psalms 68:34 we cannot take צרבות , as do the Targum and Talmud ( B. Chagiga 12 b), as a name of one of the seven heavens, a meaning to which, apart from other considerations, the verb ערב , to be effaced, confused, dark, is not an appropriate stem-word; but it must be explained according to Isaiah 40:3. There Jahve calls in the aid of His people, here He goes forth at the head of His people; He rides through the steppes in order to right against the enemies of His people. Not merely the historical reference assigned to the Psalm by Hitzig, but also the one adopted by ourselves, admits of allusion being made to the “steppes of Moab;” for the way to Mêdebâ, where the Syrian mercenaries of the Ammonites had encamped (1 Chronicles 19:7), lay through these steppes, and also the way to Rabbath Ammon (2 Samuel 10:7.). סלּוּ calls upon them to make a way for Him, the glorious, invincible King (cf. Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10); סלל signifies to cast up, heap up or pave, viz., a raised and suitable street or highway, Symmachus katastroo'sate. He who thus rides along makes the salvation of His people His aim: “ ה is His name, therefore shout with joy before Him.” The Beth in בּיהּ (Symmachus, Quinta: ἴα ) is the Beth essentiae, which here, as in Isaiah 26:4, stands beside the subject: His name is (exists) in יה , i.e., His essential name is yh, His self-attestation, by which He makes Himself capable of being known and named, consists in His being the God of salvation, who, in the might of free grace, pervades all history. This Name is a fountain of exultant rejoicing to His people.
This Name is exemplificatively unfolded in Psalms 68:6. The highly exalted One, who sits enthroned in the heaven of glory, rules in all history here below and takes an interest in the lowliest more especially, in all circumstances of their lives following after His own to succour them. He takes the place of a father to the orphan. He takes up the cause of the widow and contests it to a successful issue. Elohim is one who makes the solitary or isolated to dwell in the house; בּיתה with He locale, which just as well answers the question where? as whither? בּית , a house = family bond, is the opposite of יהיד , solitarius , recluse, Psalms 25:16. Dachselt correctly renders it, in domum, h.e. familiam numerosam durabilemque eos ut patres-familias plantabit . He is further One who brings forth (out of the dungeon and out of captivity) those who are chained into abundance of prosperity. כּושׁרות , occurring only here, is a pluralet . from כּשׁר morf .tela , synonym אשׁר , to be straight, fortunate. Psalms 68:7 briefly and sharply expresses the reverse side of this His humanely condescending rule among mankind. אך is here (cf. Genesis 9:4; Leviticus 11:4) restrictive or adversative (as is more frequently the case with אכן ); and the preterite is the preterite of that which is an actual matter of experience. The סוררים , i.e., (not from סוּר , the apostate ones, Aquila afista'menoi, but as in Psalms 66:7, from סרר ) the rebellious, Symmachus ἀπειθεῖς , who were not willing to submit to the rule of so gracious a God, had ever been excluded from these proofs of favour. These must inhabit צחיחה (accusative of the object), a sun-scorched land; from צחח , to be dazzlingly bright, sunny, dried or parched up. They remain in the desert without coming into the land, which, fertilized by the waters of grace, is resplendent with a fresh verdure and with rich fruits. If the poet has before his mind in connection with this the bulk of the people delivered out of Egypt, ὧν τὰ κῶλα ἔπεσαν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμω (Hebrews 3:17), then the transition to what follows is much more easily effected. There is, however, no necessity for any such intermediation. The poet had the march through the desert to Canaan under the guidance of Jahve, the irresistible Conqueror, in his mind even from the beginning, and now he expressly calls to mind that marvellous divine leading in order that the present age may take heart thereat.
In Psalms 68:7. the poet repeats the words of Deborah (Judges 5:4.), and her words again go back to Deuteronomy 33:2, cf. Exodus 19:15.; on the other hand, our Psalm is the original to Hab. 3. The martial verb יצא represents Elohim as, coming forth from His heavenly dwelling-place (Isaiah 26:21), He places Himself at the head of Israel. The stately verb צעד represents Him as He accompanies the hosts of His people with the step of a hero confident of victory; and the terrible name for the wilderness, ישׁימון , is designedly chosen in order to express the contrast between the scene of action and that which they beheld at that time. The verb to זה סיני is easily supplied; Dachselt's rendering according to the accents is correct: hic mons Sinai (sc. in specie ita tremuit ). The description fixes our attention upon Sinai as the central point of all revelations of God during the period of deliverance by the hand of Moses, as being the scene of the most gloriously of them all (vid., on Hab. p. 136f.). The majestic phenomena which proclaimed the nearness of God are distributed over the whole journeying, but most gloriously concentrated themselves at the giving of the Law of Sinai. The earth trembled throughout the extended circuit of this vast granite range, and the heavens dropped, inasmuch as the darkness of thunder clouds rested upon Sinai, pierced by incessant lightnings (Ex. 19). There, as the original passages describe it, Jahve met His people; He came from the east, His people from the west; there they found themselves together, and shaking the earth, breaking through the heavens, He gave them a pledge of the omnipotence which should henceforth defend and guide them. The poet has a purpose in view in calling Elohim in this passage “the God of Israel;” the covenant relationship of God to Israel dates from Sinai, and from this period onwards, by reason of the Tôra, He became Israel's King (Deuteronomy 33:5). Since the statement of a fact of earlier history has preceded, and since the preterites alternate with them, the futures that follow in Psalms 68:10, Psalms 68:11 are to be understood as referring to the synchronous past; but hardly so that Psalms 68:10 should refer to the miraculous supply of food, and more especially the rain of manna, during the journeyings through the wilderness. The giving of the Law from Sinai has a view to Israel being a settled, stationary people, and the deliverance out of the land of bondage only finds its completion in the taking and maintaining possession of the Land of Promise. Accordingly Psalms 68:10, Psalms 68:11 refer to the blessing and protection of the people who had taken up their abode there.
The נחלהּ of God ( genit. auctoris, as in 2 Macc. 2:4) is the land assigned by Him to Israel as an inheritance; and גּשׁם נדבות an emblem of the abundance of gifts which God has showered down upon the land since Israel took up its abode in it. נדבה is the name given to a deed and gift springing from an inward impulse, and in this instance the intensive idea of richness and superabundance is associated therewith by means of the plural; גּשׁם נדבות is a shower-like abundance of good gifts descending from above. The Hiphil הניף here governs a double accusative, like the Kal in Proverbs 7:17, in so far, that is, as נחלתך is drawn to Psalms 68:10; for the accentuation, in opposition to the Targum, takes נחלתך ונלאה together: Thine inheritance and that the parched one ( Waw epexeget. as in 1 Samuel 28:3; Amos 3:11; Amos 4:10). But this “and that” is devoid of aim; why should it not at once be read הנּלאה ? The rendering of Böttcher, “Thy sickened and wearied,” is inadmissible, too, according to the present pointing; for it ought to be נחלתך or נחלתך . And with a suffix this Niphal becomes ambiguous, and more especially so in this connection, where the thought of נחלה , an inherited possession, a heritage, lies so naturally at hand. נחלתך is therefore to be drawn to Psalms 68:10, and Psalms 68:10 must begin with ונלאה , as in the lxx, καὶ ἠσθένησε σὺ δὲ κατεερτίσω αὐτήν . It is true נלאה is not a hypothetical preteriet equivalent to ונלאתה ; but, as is frequently the case with the anarthrous participle (Ew. §341, b), it has the value of a hypothetical clause: “and if it (Israel's inheritance) were in a parched, exhausted condition (cf. the cognate root להה , Genesis 47:13), then hast Thou always made it again firm” (Psalms 8:4; Psalms 15:1-Deuteronomy ::17), i.e., strengthened, enlivened it. Even here the idea of the inhabitants is closely associated with the land itself; in Psalms 68:11 they are more especially thought of: “They creatures dwelt therein.” Nearly all modern expositors take חיּה either according to 2 Samuel 23:11, 2 Samuel 23:13 (cf. 1 Chronicles 11:15), in the signification tent-circle, ring-camp (root חו , Arab. ḥw , to move in a circle, to encircle, to compass), or in the signification of Arab. ḥayy (from Arab. ḥayiya = חיי חיה ), a race or tribe, i.e., a collection of living beings (cf. חיּי , 1 Samuel 18:18). But the Asaphic character of this Psalm, which is also manifest in other points, is opposed to this rendering. This style of Psalm is fond of the comparison of Israel to a flock, so that also in Psalms 74:19 חית עניין signifies nothing else than “the creatures [ Getheir, collective] of Thy poor, Thy poor creatures.” This use of חיה is certainly peculiar; but not so remarkable as if by the “creatures of God” we had to understand, with Hupfeld, the quails (Ex. 16). The avoiding of בּהמה on account of the idea of brutum (Psalms 73:22) which is inseparable from this word, is sufficient to account for it; in חיה , ζῷον , there is merely the notion of moving life. We therefore are to explain it according to Micah 7:14, where Israel is called a flock dwelling in a wood in the midst of Carmel: God brought it to pass, that the flock of Israel, although sorely persecuted, nevertheless continued to inhabit the land. בּהּ , as in Micah 7:15, refers to Canaan. עני in Psalms 68:11 is the ecclesia pressa surrounded by foes on every side: Thou didst prepare for Thy poor with Thy goodness, Elohim, i.e., Thou didst regale or entertain Thy poor people with Thy possessions and Thy blessings. הכין ל , as in Genesis 43:16; 1 Chronicles 12:39, to make ready to eat, and therefore to entertain; טובה as in Psalms 65:12, טוּב ה , Jeremiah 31:12. It would be quite inadmissible, because tautological, to refer תּכין to the land according to Psalms 65:10 (Ewald), or even to the desert (Olshausen), which the description has now left far behind.
The futures that now follow are no longer to be understood as referring to previous history; they no longer alternate with preterites. Moreover the transition to the language of address in Psalms 68:14 shows that the poet here looks forth from his present time and circumstances into the future; and the introduction of the divine name אדני , after Elohim has been used eleven times, is an indication of a new commencement. The prosperous condition in which God places His church by giving it the hostile powers of the world as a spoil is depicted. The noun אמר , never occurring in the genitival relationship, and never with a suffix, because the specific character of the form would be thereby obliterated, always denotes an important utterance, more particularly God's word of promise (Psalms 77:9), or His word of power (Habakkuk 3:9), which is represented elsewhere as a mighty voice of thunder (Psalms 68:34, Isaiah 30:30), or a trumpet-blast (Zechariah 9:14); in the present instance it is the word of power by which the Lord suddenly changes the condition of His oppressed church. The entirely new state of things which this omnipotent behest as it were conjures into existence is presented to the mind in v. 12 b: the women who proclaim the tidings of victory - a great host. Victory and triumph follow upon God's אמר , as upon His creative יהי . The deliverance of Israel from the army of Pharaoh, the deliverance out of the hand of Jabin by the defeat of Sisera, the victory of Jephthah over the Ammonites, and the victorious single combat of David with Goliath were celebrated by singing women. God's decisive word shall also go forth this time, and of the evangelists, like Miriam (Mirjam) and Deborah, there shall be a great host.
Psalms 68:12 describes the subject of this triumphant exultation. Hupfeld regards Psalms 68:13-Ezra : as the song of victory itself, the fragment of an ancient triumphal ode ( epinikion ) reproduced here; but there is nothing standing in the way that should forbid our here regarding these verses as a direct continuation of Psalms 68:12. The “hosts” are the numerous well-equipped armies which the kings of the heathen lead forth to the battle against the people of God. The unusual expression “kings of hosts” sounds very much like an ironically disparaging antithesis to the customary “Jahve of Hosts” (Böttcher). He, the Lord, interposes, and they are obliged to flee, staggering as they go, to retreat, and that, as the anadiplosis (cf. Judges 5:7; Judges 19:20) depicts, far away, in every direction. The fut. energicum with its ultima -accentuation gives intensity to the pictorial expression. The victors then turn homewards laden with rich spoils. נות בּית , here in a collective sense, is the wife who stays at home (Judges 5:24) while the husband goes forth to battle. It is not: the ornament ( נוה as in Jeremiah 6:2) of the house, which Luther, with the lxx, Vulgate, and Syriac, adopts in his version,
(Note: “ Hausehre,” says he, is the housewife or matron as being the adornment of the house; vid., F. Dietrich, Frau und Dame, a lecture bearing upon the history of language (1864), S. 13.)
but: the dweller or homely one (cf. נות , a dwelling-lace, Job 8:6) of the house, ἡ οἰκουρός . The dividing of the spoil elsewhere belongs to the victors; what is meant here is the distribution of the portions of the spoil that have fallen to the individual victors, the further distribution of which is left for the housewife (Judges 5:30., 2 Samuel 1:24). Ewald now recognises in Psalms 68:14. the words of an ancient song of victory; but v. 13 b is unsuitable to introduce them. The language of address in Psalms 68:14 is the poet's own, and he here describes the condition of the people who are victorious by the help of their God, and who again dwell peaceably in the land after the war. אם passes out of the hypothetical signification into the temporal, as e.g., in Job 14:14 (vid., on Psalms 59:16). The lying down among the sheep-folds ( שׁפתּים משׁפּתים , cf. שׁפט משׁפּט , the staked-in folds or pens consisting of hurdles standing two by two over against one another) is an emblem of thriving peace, which (like Psalms 68:8, Psalms 68:28) points back to Deborah's song, Judges 5:16, cf. Genesis 49:14. Just such a time is now also before Israel, a time of peaceful prosperity enhanced by rich spoils. Everything shall glitter and gleam with silver and gold. Israel is God's turtle-dove, Psalms 74:19, cf. Psalms 56:1, Hosea 7:11; Hosea 11:11. Hence the new circumstances of ease and comfort are likened to the varied hues of a dove disporting itself in the sun. Its wings are as though overlaid with silver ( נחפּה , not 3. praet, but part. fem. Niph. as predicate to כּנפי , cf. 1 Samuel 4:15; Micah 4:11; Micah 1:9; Ew. §317 a), therefore like silver wings (cf. Ovid, Metam. ii. 537: Niveis argentea pennis Ales); and its pinions with gold-green,
(Note: Ewald remarks, “Arabian poets also call the dove Arab. 'l - wrq'â , the greenish yellow, golden gleaming one, vid., Kosegarten, Chrestom. p. 156, 5.” But this Arabic poetical word for the dove signifies rather the ash-green, whity blackish one. Nevertheless the signification greenish for the Hebrew ירקרק is established. Bartenoro, on Negaim xi. 4, calls the colour of the wings of the peacock ירקרק ; and I am here reminded of what Wetzstein once told me, that, according to an Arab proverb, the surface of good coffee ought to be “like the neck of the dove,” i.e., so oily that it gleams like the eye of a peacock. A way for the transition from green to grey in aurak as the name of a colour is already, however, opened up in post-biblical Hebrew, when to frighten any one is expressed by פנים הוריק , Genesis Rabba, 47 a. The intermediate notions that of fawn colour, i.e., yellowish grey. In the Talmud the plumage of the full-grown dove is called זהוב and צהוב , Chullin, 22 b.)
and that, as the reduplicated form implies, with the iridescent or glistening hue of the finest gold ( חרוּץ , not dull, but shining gold).
Side by side with this bold simile there appears in v. 15 an equally bold but contrastive figure, which, turning a step or two backward, likewise vividly illustrates the results of their God-given victory. The suffix of בּהּ refers to the land of Israel, as in Isaiah 8:21; Isaiah 65:9. צלמום , according to the usage of the language so far as it is now preserved to us, is not a common noun: deep darkness (Targum = צלמות ), it is the name of a mountain in Ephraim, the trees of which Abimelech transported in order to set fire to the tower of Shechem (Judges 9:48.). The Talmudic literature was acquainted with a river taking its rise there, and also somewhat frequently mentions a locality bearing a similar name to that of the mountain. The mention of this mountain may in a general way be rendered intelligible by the consideration that, like Shiloh (Genesis 49:10), it is situated about in the centre of the Holy Land.
(Note: In Tosifta Para, ch. viii., a river of the name of יורדת הצלמון is mentioned, the waters of which might not be used in preparing the water of expiation ( מי חטאת ), because they were dried up at the time of the war, and thereby hastened the defeat of Israel (viz., the overthrow of Barcochba). Grätz “Geschichte der Juden, iv. 157, 459f.) sees in it the Nahar Arsuf, which flows down the mountains of Ephraim past Bethar into the Mediterranean. The village of Zalmon occurs in the Mishna, Jebamoth xvi. 6, and frequently. The Jerusalem Gemara ( Maaseroth i. 1) gives pre-eminence to the carob-trees of Zalmona side by side with those of Shitta and Gadara.)
השׁליג signifies to bring forth snow, or even, like Arab. aṯlj , to become snow-white; this Hiph. is not a word descriptive of colour, like הלבּין . Since the protasis is בּפרשׂ , and not בּפרשׂך תּשׁלג is intended to be impersonal (cf. Psalms 50:3; Amos 4:7, Mich. Psalms 3:6); and the voluntative form is explained from its use in apodoses of hypothetical protases (Ges. §128, 2). It indicates the issue to which, on the supposition of the other, it must and shall come. The words are therefore to be rendered: then it snows on Zalmon; and the snowing is either an emblem of the glistening spoil that falls into their hands in such abundance, or it is a figure of the becoming white, whether from bleached bones (cf. Virgil, Aen. v. 865: albi ossibus scopuli ; xii. 36: campi ossibus albent ; Ovid, Fasti i. 558: humanis ossibus albet humus ) or even from the naked corpses (2 Samuel 1:19, על־בּמותיך חלל ). Whether we consider the point of comparison to lie in the spoil being abundant as the flakes of snow, and like to the dazzling snow in brilliancy, or in the white pallid corpses, at any rate בּצלמון is not equivalent to כּבצלמון , but what follows “when the Almighty scatters kings therein” is illustrated by Zalmon itself. In the one case Zalmon is represented as the battle-ground (cf. Psalms 110:6), in the other (which better corresponds to the nature of a wooded mountain) as a place of concealment. The protasis בפרשׂ וגו favours the latter; for פּרשׂ signifies to spread wide apart, to cause a compact whole - and the host of “the kings” is conceived of as such - to fly far asunder into many parts (Zechariah 2:10, cf. the Niph. in Ezekiel 17:21). The hostile host disperses in all directions, and Zalmon glitters, as it were with snow, from the spoil that is dropped by those who flee. Homer also ( Iliad, xix. 357-361) likens the mass of assembled helmets, shields, armour, and lances to the spectacle of a dense fall of snow. In this passage of the Psalm before us still more than in Homer it is the spectacle of the fallen and far seen glistening snow that also is brought into the comparison, and not merely that which is falling and that which covers everything (vid., Iliad, xii. 277ff.). The figure is the pendant of the figure of the dove.
(Note: Wetzstein gives a different explanation ( Reise in den beiden Trachonen und um das Haura=ngebirge in the Zeitscheift für allgem. Erdkunde, 1859, S. 198). “ Then fell snow on Zalmon, i.e., the mountain clothed itself in a bright garment of light in celebration of this joyous event. Any one who has been in Palestine knows how very refreshing is the spectacle of the distant mountain-top capped with snow. The beauty of this poetical figure is enhanced by the fact that Zalmon (Arab. ḏlmân ), according to its etymology, signifies a mountain range dark and dusky, either from shade, forest, or black rock. The last would well suit the mountains of Haurân, among which Ptolemaeus (p. 365 and 370, Ed. Wilberg) mentions a mountain (according to one of the various readings) Ἀσαλμάνος .”)
This victory of Israel over the kings of the Gentiles gives the poet the joyful assurance that Zion is the inaccessible dwelling-place of Elohim, the God of the heavenly hosts. The mention of Zalmon leads him to mention other mountains. He uses the mountains of Bashan as an emblem of the hostile powers east of Jordan. These stand over against the people of God, as the mighty mountains of Bashan rising in steep, only slightly flattened peaks, to little hill-like Zion. In the land on this side Jordan the limestone and chalk formation with intermingled strata of sandstone predominates; the mountains of Bashan, however, are throughout volcanic, consisting of slag, lava, and more particularly basalt ( basanites), which has apparently taken its name from Bashan (Basan).
Psalms 68:18 now describes the kind of God, so to speak, who sits enthroned on Zion. The war-chariots of the heavenly hosts are here collectively called רכב , as in 2 Kings 6:17. רבּתים (with Dechî, not Olewejored) is a dual from רבּות ; and this is either an abstract noun equivalent to רבּוּת (from which comes the apocopated רבּו רבּוּ ), a myriad, consequently רבּתים , two myriads, or a contracted plural out of רבּאחת , Ezra 2:69, therefore the dual of a plural (like הומותים לוּהותים ): an indefinite plurality of myriads, and this again doubled (Hofmann). With this sense, in comparison with which the other is poor and meagre, also harmonies the expression אלפי שׂנאן , thousands of repetition ( ἅπαξ λεγομ = שׂנין ), i.e., thousands and again thousands, numberless, incalculable thousands; cf. the other and synonymous expression in Daniel 7:10.
(Note: Tradition (Targum, Saadia, and Abulwalîd) takes שׂנאן forthwith as a synonym of מלאך , an angel. So also the lxx (Jerome): χιλιάδες εὐθηνούντων ( שׁנאן שׁאנן ), and Symmachus, χιλιάδες ὴχούντων (from שׁאה ?). The stem-word is, however, שׁנה , just as שׁנים , Arabic thinân , ithnân , is also formed from a singular that is to be assumed, viz., שׁן , Arab. ṯinun ( iṯnun ), and this from שׁנה , Arab. ṯnâ (cf. בּן from בּנה , Arab. banâ ).)
It is intended to give a conception of the “hosts” which Elohim is to set in array against the “kings of hosts,” i.e., the martial power of the kingdom of the world, for the protection and for the triumph of His own people. Chariots of fire and horses of fire appear in 2 Kings 2:11; 2 Kings 6:17 as God's retinue; in Daniel 7:10 it is angelic forces that thus make themselves visible. They surround Him on both sides in many myriads, in countless thousands. אדני בם (with Beth raphatum ),
(Note: This is one of the three passages (the others being Isaiah 34:11; Ezekiel 23:42; cf. Ew. §93, b) in which the dageshing of the opening mute of the following word is given up after a soft final consonant, when the words are connected by a conjunctive accent or Makkeph .))
the Lord is among them (cf. Isaiah 45:14), i.e., they are round about Him, He has them with Him (Jeremiah 41:15), and is present with them. It now becomes clear why Sinai is mentioned, viz., because at the giving of the Law Jahve revealed Himself on Sinai surrounded by “ten thousands of saints” (Deuteronomy 33:2.). But in what sense is it mentioned? Zion, the poet means, presents to the spiritual eye now a spectacle such as Sinai presented in the earlier times, although even Sinai does not belong to the giants among the mountains:
(Note: Cf. the epigram in Sadi's Garden of Roses, “Of all mountains Sinai is the smallest, and yet the greatest in rank and worth in the estimation of God,” etc. On the words סיני בקדשׁ which follow we may to a certain extent compare the name of honour given to it in Arabic, ṭûr m‛ana , “Sinai of Pensiveness” (Pertsch, Die persischen Handschriften der Gothaer Bibliothek, 1859, S. 24).)
God halts there with His angel host as a protection and pledge of victory to His people. The conjectures בא מסיני and בם מסיני (Hitzig) are of no use to us. We must either render it: Sinai is in the sanctuary, i.e., as it were transferred into the sanctuary of Zion; or: a Sinai is it in holiness, i.e., it presents a spectacle such as Sinai presented when God by His appearing surrounded it with holiness. The use of the expression בּקּדשׂ in Psalms 68:25, Psalms 77:14; Exodus 15:11, decides in favour of the latter rendering.
With Psalms 68:19 the Psalm changes to prayer. According to Psalms 7:8; Psalms 47:6, למּרום appears to be the height of heaven; but since in Psalms 68:16-Job : Zion is spoken of as Jahve's inaccessible dwelling-place, the connection points to מרום ציּון , Jeremiah 31:12, cf. Ezekiel 17:23; Ezekiel 20:40. Moreover the preterites, which under other circumstances we should be obliged to take as prophetic, thus find their most natural explanation as a retrospective glance at David's storming of “the stronghold of Zion” (2 Samuel 5:6-:) as the deed of Jahve Himself. But we should exceed the bounds of legitimate historical interpretation by referring לקחתּ מתּנות בּאדם to the Nethı̂nim , Ezra 8:20 (cf. Numbers 17:6), those bondmen of the sanctuary after the manner of the Gibeonites, Joshua 9:23. The Beth of באדם is not Beth substantiae : gifts consisting of men, so that these themselves are the thing given (J. D. Michaelis, Ewald), but the expression signifies inter homines , as in Psalms 78:60; 2 Samuel 23:3; Jeremiah 32:20. עלית למּרום mentions the ascending of the triumphant One; שׁבית שּׁבי (cf. Judges 5:12), the subjugation of the enemy; לקחתּ וגו , the receiving of the gifts betokening homage and allegiance (Deuteronomy 28:38, and frequently), which have been presented to Him since He has taken possession of Zion - there He sits enthroned henceforth over men, and receives gifts like to the tribute which the vanquished bring to the victor. These He has received among men, and even ( ואף , atque etiam , as in Leviticus 26:29-Jonah :) among the rebellious ones. Or does a new independent clause perhaps begin with ואף סוררים ? This point will be decided by the interpretation of the words that follow. Side by side with an infinitive with ל expressing a purpose, the one following noun (here a twofold name) has the assumption against it of being the subject. Is יה אלהים then consequently the object, or is it an apostrophe? If it be taken as the language of address, then the definition of the purpose, לשׁכן , ought, as not being suited to what immediately precedes, to refer back to עלית ; but this word is too far off. Thus, therefore, the construction of יה אלהים with לשכן , as its object, is apparently intended (Ewald, Hupfeld): and even the rebellious are to dwell (Ges. §132, rem. 1) with Jāh Elohim descend and dwell; the Syriac version: and even the rebellious will (“not” is probably to be crossed out) dwell before God ( יעמדון קדם אלהא ); and Jerome: insuper et non credentes inhabitare Dominum Deum . Thus Theodoret also understands the versions of the lxx and of Aquila: “Thou hast not regarded their former disobedience, but notwithstanding their rebellion hast Thou continually been gracious to them ἕως αὐτοὺς oikeetee'rion oikei'on ape'feenas.” The expression, however, sounds too grand to have “the rebellious ones” as its subject, and more particularly in view of Psalms 68:7. Hence we take ואף סוררים with בּאדם : and even among rebellious ones (hast Thou received gifts), or: and even rebellious ones (give Thee); and לשׁכן as a clause denoting the purpose, followed by the subject (as e.g., in 2 Samuel 19:20): in order that Jāh Elohim may dwell, i.e., continue to dwell (as in Psalms 68:17, cf. Isaiah 57:15).
The first half of the Psalm ends here. With the words Jāh Elohim the Psalm has reached a summit upon which it takes its rest. God has broken forth on behalf of His people against their enemies, and He now triumphs over and on behalf of men. The circumstance of Elohim arising is the raise of the final glory, and His becoming manifest as Jāh Elohim is its zenith. Paul (Ephesians 4:8) gathers up the meaning of Psalms 68:19, without following the lxx, in the following manner: ἀναβὰς εἰς ὕψος ᾐχμαλώτευσεν αιχμαλωσίαν καὶ ἔδωκε δόματα τοῖς ἀνθρώποις . Might he perhaps have had the Targum, with which the Syriac version agrees, in his mind at the time: יחבתּא להון מתנן לבני נשׂא ? He interprets in the light and in the sense of the history that realizes it. For the ascension of Elohim in its historical fulfilment is none other than the ascension of Christ. This latter was, however, as the Psalm describes it, a triumphal procession (Colossians 2:15); and what the Victor has gained over the powers of darkness and of death, He has gained not for His own aggrandisement, but for the interests of men. It is מתּנות בּאדם , gifts which He now distributes among men, and which benefit even the erring ones. So the apostle takes the words, inasmuch as he changes ἔλαβες into ἔδωκε . The gifts are the charismata which come down from the Exalted One upon His church.
(Note: In this respect Ps 68 is the most appropriate Psalm for the Dominica Pentecostes, just as it is also, in the Jewish ritual, the Psalm of the second Shabuoth day.)
It is a distribution of gifts, a dispensing of blessing, which stands related to His victory as its primary cause; for as Victor He is also the possessor of blessing, His gifts are as it were the spoils of the victory He has gained over sin, death, and Satan.
(Note: Just so Hölemann in the second division of his Bibelstudien (1861); whereas to Hormann ( Schriftbeweis, ii. 482ff.) the New Testament application of the citation from the Psalm is differently brought about, because he refers neither ᾐχμαλώτευσεν αἰχμαλωσίαν nor κατέβη εἰς τὰ κατώτερα μέρη τῆς γῆς to the descent of the Lord into Hades.)
The apostle is the more warranted in this interpretation, since Elohim in what follows is celebrated as the Lord who also brings out of death. This praise in the historical fulfilment applies to Him, who, as Theodoret observes on Psalms 68:21, has opened up the prison-house of death, which for us had no exit, and burst the brazen doors, and broken asunder the iron bolts,
(Note: Just so that portion of the Gospel of Nicodemus that treats of Christ's descent into Hades; vis. Tischendorf, Evangelia Apocryph. (1853), p. 307.)
viz., to Jesus Christ, who now has the keys of Death and of Hades.
Now begins the second circuit of the hymn. Comforted by the majestic picture of the future that he has beheld, the poet returns to the present, in which Israel is still oppressed, but yet not forsaken by God. The translation follows the accentuation, regular and in accordance with the sense, which has been restored by Baer after Heidenheim, viz., אדני has Zarka , and יעמס לנוּ Olewejored preceded by the sub-distinctive Rebia parvum ; it is therefore: Benedictus Dominator: quotidie bajulat nobis , - with which the Targum, Rashi, and Kimchi agree.
(Note: According to the customary accentuation the second יום has Mercha or Olewejored, and יעמס־לנוּ , Mugrash. But this Mugrash has the position of the accents of the Silluk -member against it; for although it does exceptionally occur that two conjunctives follow Mugrash ( Accentsystem, xvii. §5), yet these cannot in any case be Mahpach sarkatum and Illui.)
עמס , like נשׂא and סבל , unites the significations to lay a burden upon one (Zechariah 12:3; Isaiah 46:1, Isaiah 46:3), and to carry a burden; with על it signifies to lay a burden upon any one, here with ל to take up a burden for any one and to bear it for him. It is the burden or pressure of the hostile world that is meant, which the Lord day by day helps His church to bear, inasmuch as He is mighty by His strength in her who of herself is so feeble. The divine name אל , as being the subject of the sentence, is האל : God is our salvation. The music here again strikes in forte, and the same thought that is emphasized by the music in its turn, is also repeated in Psalms 68:21 with heightened expression: God is to us a God למושׁעות , who grants us help in rich abundance. The pluralet. denotes not so much the many single proofs of help, as the riches of rescuing power and grace. In Psalms 68:21 למּות corresponds to the לנוּ ; for it is not to be construed תּוצאות למּות : Jahve's, the Lord, are the outgoings to death (Böttcher), i.e., He can command that one shall not fall a prey to death. תוצאות , the parallel word to מושׁעות , signifies, and it is the most natural meaning, the escapings; יצא , evadere , as in 1 Samuel 14:41; 2 Kings 13:5; Ecclesiastes 7:18. In Jahve's power are means of deliverance for death, i.e., even for those who are already abandoned to death. With אך a joyously assuring inference is drawn from that which God is to Israel. The parallelism of the correctly divided verse shows that ראשׁ here, as in Psalms 110:6, signifies caput in the literal sense, and not in the sense of princeps . The hair-covered scalp is mentioned as a token of arrogant strength, and unhumbled and impenitent pride, as in Deuteronomy 32:42, and as the Attic koma'n directly signifies to strut along, give one's self airs. The genitival construction is the same as in Isaiah 28:1, Isaiah 32:13. The form of expression refers back to Numbers 24:17, and so to speak inflects this primary passage very similarly to Jeremiah 48:45. If קדקד שׂער be an object, then ראשׁ ought also to be a second object (that of the member of the body); the order of the words does not in itself forbid this (cf. Psalms 3:8 with Deuteronomy 33:11), but would require a different arrangement in order to avoid ambiguities.
In Psalms 68:23 the poet hears a divine utterance, or records one that he has heard: “From Bashan will I bring back, I will bring back from the eddies of the sea (from צוּל צלל , to whiz, rattle; to whirl, eddy), i.e., the depths or abysses of the sea.” Whom? When after the destruction of Jerusalem a ship set sail for Rome with a freight of distinguished and well-formed captives before whom was the disgrace of prostitution, they all threw themselves into the sea, comforting themselves with this passage of Scripture ( Gittin 57 b, cf. Echa Rabbathi 66 a). They therefore took Psalms 68:23 to be a promise which has Israel as its object;
(Note: So also the Targum, which understands the promise to refer to the restoration of the righteous who have been eaten by wild beasts and drowned in the sea (Midrash: מבשׁן מבין שׁני אריות ); cf. also the things related from the time of the Khaliphs in Jost's Geschichte des Judenthums, ii. 399, and Grätz' Gesch. der Juden, v. 347.)
but the clause expressing a purpose, Psalms 68:24, and the paraphrase in Amos 9:2., show that the foes of Israel are conceived of as its object. Even if these have hidden themselves in the most out-of-the-way places, God will fetch them back and make His own people the executioners of His justice upon them. The expectation is that the flight of the defeated foes will take a southernly direction, and that they will hide themselves in the primeval forests of Bashan, and still farther southward in the depths of the sea, i.e., of the Dead Sea ( ים as in Isaiah 16:8; 2 Chronicles 20:2). Opposite to the hiding in the forests of the mountainous Bashan stands the hiding in the abyss of the sea, as the extreme of remoteness, that which is in itself impossible being assumed as possible. The first member of the clause expressing the purpose, Psalms 68:24, becomes more easy and pleasing if we read תּרחץ (lxx, Syriac, and Vulgate, ut intingatur ), according to Psalms 58:11. So far as the letters are concerned, the conjecture תּחמץ (from which תמחץ , according to Chajug', is transposed), after Isaiah 63:1, is still more natural (Hitzig): that thy foot may redden itself in blood. This is certainly somewhat tame, and moreover מדּם would be better suited to this rendering than בּדם . As the text now stands, תּמחץ
(Note: The Gaja of the first closed syllable warns one to make a proper pause upon it, in order that the guttural of the second, so apt to be slurred over, may be distinctly pronounced; cf. תּבחר , Psalms 65:5; הרחיק , Psalms 103:12. So also with the sibilants at the beginning of the second syllable, e.g., תּדשׁא , Genesis 1:11, in accordance with which, in Genesis 14:1; 53:2, we must write השׁתיתו והתעיבו .)
is equivalent to תּמחצם (them, viz., the enemies), and רגלך בּדם is an adverbial clause (setting or plunging thy foot in blood). It is, however, also possible that מחץ is used like Arab. machaḍa ( vehementer commovere ): ut concutias s. agites pedem tuam in sanguine. Can it now be that in Psalms 68:24 from among the number of the enemies of the one who goes about glorying in his sins, the רשׁע κατ ̓ ἐξοχήν (cf. Isaiah 11:4; Habakkuk 3:13, and other passages), is brought prominently forward by מנּהוּ ? Hardly so; the absence of תּלק ( lambat) cannot be tolerated, cf. 1 Kings 21:19; 1 Kings 22:38. It is more natural, with Simonis, to refer מנּהוּ back to לשׁון (a word which is usually fem., but sometimes perhaps is masc., Psalms 22:16; Proverbs 26:28); and, since side by side with ממּנוּ only מנהוּ occurs anywhere else (Ew. §263, b), to take it in the signification pars ejus ( מן from מנן מגה , after the form גּז חן קץ , of the same meaning as מגה מנת , Psalms 63:11), in favour of which Hupfeld also decides.
What is now described in Psalms 68:25-Hosea :, is not the rejoicing over a victory gained in the immediate past, nor the rejoicing over the earlier deliverance at the Red Sea, but Israel's joyful celebration when it shall have experienced the avenging and redemptive work of its God and King. According to Psalms 77:14; Habakkuk 3:6, הליכות appears to be God's march against the enemy; but what follows shows that the pompa magnifica of God is intended, after He has overcome the enemy. Israel's festival of victory is looked upon as a triumphal procession of God Himself, the King, who governs in holiness, and has now subjugated and humbled the unholy world; בּקּדשׁ as in Psalms 68:18. The rendering “in the sanctuary' is very natural in this passage, but Exodus 15:11; Psalms 77:14, are against it. The subject of ראוּ is all the world, more especially those of the heathen who have escaped the slaughter. The perfect signifies: they have seen, just as קדּמוּ , they have occupied the front position. Singers head the procession, after them ( אחר ,
(Note: This אחר , according to B. Nedarim 37 b, is a so-called עטור סופרים ( ablatio scribarum), the sopherim (sofrim) who watched over the faithful preservation of the text having removed the reading ואחר , so natural according to the sense, here as in Genesis 18:5; Genesis 24:55; Numbers 31:2, and marked it as not genuine.)
an adverb as in Genesis 22:13; Exodus 5:1) players upon citherns and harps ( נגנים , participle to נגּן ), and on either side virgins with timbrels (Spanish adufe); תּופפות , apocopated part. Poel with the retension of ē (cf. שׁוקקה , Psalms 107:9), from תּפף , to strike the תּף (Arab. duff ). It is a retrospective reference to the song at the Sea, now again come into life, which Miriam and the women of Israel sang amidst the music of timbrels. The deliverance which is now being celebrated is the counterpart of the deliverance out of Egypt. Songs resound as in Psalms 68:27, “in gatherings of the congregation (and, so to speak, in full choirs) praise ye Elohim.” מקהלות מקהלים , Psalms 26:12) is the plural to קהל (Psalms 22:23), which forms none of its own (cf. post-biblical קהלּות from קהלּה ). Psalms 68:27 is abridged from ברכו אדני אשׁר אתם ממקור ישראל , praise ye the Lord, ye who have Israel for your fountainhead. אדני , in accordance with the sense, has Mugrash. Israel is here the name of the patriarch, from whom as from its fountainhead the nation has spread itself abroad; cf. Isaiah 48:1; Isaiah 51:1, and as to the syntax ממּך , those who descend from thee, Isaiah 58:12. In the festive assembly all the tribes of Israel are represented by their princes. Two each from the southern and northern tribes are mentioned. Out of Benjamin was Israel's first king, the first royal victor over the Gentiles; and in Benjamin, according to the promise (Deuteronomy 33:12) and according to the accounts of the boundaries (Joshua 18:16., Joshua 15:7.), lay the sanctuary of Israel. Thus, therefore, the tribe which, according both to order of birth (Genesis 43:29.) and also extent of jurisdiction and numbers (1 Samuel 9:21), was “little,” was honoured beyond the others.
(Note: Tertullian calls the Apostle Paul, with reference to his name and his Benjamitish origin, parvus Benjamin , just as Augustine calls the poetess of the Magnificat, nostra tympanistria .)
Judah, however, came to the throne in the person of David, and became for ever the royal tribe. Zebulun and Naphtali are the tribes highly praised in Deborah's song of victory (Judges 5:18, cf. Psalms 4:6) on account of their patriotic bravery. רדם , giving no sense when taken from the well-known verb רדם , falls back upon רדה , and is consequently equivalent to רדם (cf. Lamentations 1:13), subduing or ruling them; according to the sense, equivalent to רדה בם (1 Kings 5:30; 1 Kings 9:23; 2 Chronicles 8:10), like המּצלם , not “their leader up,” but ὁ ἀναγαγὼν αὐτοὺς , Isaiah 63:11, not = רדיהם (like עשׂיהם ראיהם ), which would signify their subduer or their subduers. The verb רדה , elsewhere to subjugate, oppress, hold down by force, Ezekiel 34:4; Leviticus 25:53, is here used of the peaceful occupation of the leader who maintains the order of a stately and gorgeous procession. For the reference to the enemies, “their subduer,” is without any coherence. But to render the parallel word רגמתם “their (the enemies') stoning” (Hengstenberg, Vaihinger, and others, according to Böttcher's “Proben”), is, to say nothing more, devoid of taste; moreover רגם does not mean to throw stones with a sling, but to stone as a judicial procedure. If we assign to the verb רגם the primary signification congerere, accumulare , after Arab. rajama VIII, and rakama , then רגמתם signifies their closely compacted band, as Jewish expositors have explained it ( קהלם או קבוצם ). Even if we connect רגם with רקם , variegare , or compare the proper name regem = Arab. rajm , socius (Böttcher), we arrive at much the same meaning. Hupfeld's conjecture רגשׁתם is consequently unnecessary.
The poet now looks forth beyond the domain of Israel, and describes the effects of Jahve's deed of judgment and deliverance in the Gentile world. The language of Psalms 68:29 is addressed to Israel, or rather to its king (Psalms 86:16; Psalms 110:2): God, to whom everything is subject, has given Israel עז , victory and power over the world. Out of the consciousness that He alone can preserve Israel upon this height of power upon which it is placed, who has placed it thereon, grows the prayer: establish ( עוּזּה with וּ for ŭ , as is frequently the case, and with the accent on the ultima on account of the following Aleph, vid., on Psalms 6:5), Elohim, that which Thou hast wrought for us; עזז , roborare, as in Proverbs 8:28; Ecclesiastes 7:19, lxx δυνάμωσον , Symmachus ἐνίσχυσον . It might also be interpreted: show Thyself powerful (cf. רוּמה , 21:14), Thou who (Isaiah 42:24) hast wrought for us ( פּעל as in Isaiah 43:13, with ל , like עשׂה ל , Isaiah 64:3); but in the other way of taking it the prayer attaches itself more sequentially to what precedes, and Psalms 62:12 shows that זוּ can also represent the neuter. Hitzig has a still different rendering: the powerful divine help, which Thou hast given us; but although - instead of - ת in the stat. construct. is Ephraimitish style (vid., on Psalms 45:5), yet עוּזּה for עז is an unknown word, and the expression “from Thy temple,” which is manifestly addressed to Elohim, shows that פּעלתּ is not the language of address to the king (according to Hitzig, to Jehoshaphat). The language of prayerful address is retained in Psalms 68:30. From the words מהיכלך על ירושׁלם there is nothing to be transported to Psalms 68:29 (Hupfeld); for Psalms 68:30 would thereby become stunted. The words together are the statement of the starting-point of the oblations belonging to יובילוּ : starting from Thy temple, which soars aloft over Jerusalem, may kings bring Thee, who sittest enthroned there in the Holy of holies, tributary gifts ( שׁי as in Psalms 76:12; Psalms 18:7). In this connection (of prayer) it is the expression of the desire that the Temple may become the zenith or cynosure, and Jerusalem the metropolis, of the world. In this passage, where it introduces the seat of religious worship, the taking of מן as expressing the primary cause, “because or on account of Thy Temple” (Ewald), is not to be entertained.
In Psalms 68:31 follows a summons, which in this instance is only the form in which the prediction clothes itself. The “beast of the reed” is not the lion, of which sojourn among the reeds is not a characteristic (although it makes its home inter arundineta Mesopotamiae, Ammianus , Psalms 18:7, and in the thickets of the Jordan, Jeremiah 49:19; Jeremiah 50:44; Zechariah 11:3). The reed is in itself an emblem of Egypt (Isaiah 36:6, cf. Psalms 19:6), and it is therefore either the crocodile, the usual emblem of Pharaoh and of the power of Egypt (Ezekiel 29:3, cf. Psalms 74:13.) that is meant, or even the hippopotamus (Egyptian p - ehe - môut ), which also symbolizes Egypt in Isaiah 30:6 (which see), and according to Job 40:21 is more appropriately than the crocodile ( התנין אשׁר בּיּם , Isaiah 27:1) called היּת קנה . Egypt appears here as the greatest and most dreaded worldly power. Elohim is to check the haughty ones who exalt themselves over Israel and Israel's God. אבּירים , strong ones, are bulls (Psalms 22:13) as an emblem of the kings; and עגלי explains itself by the genit. epexeg. עמּים .gexep : together with ( Beth of the accompaniment as in Psalms 68:31, Psalms 66:13, and beside the plur. humanus, Jeremiah 41:15) the calves, viz., the peoples, over whom those bulls rule. With the one emblem of Egypt is combined the idea of defiant self-confidence, and with the other the idea of comfortable security (vid., Jeremiah 46:20.). That which is brought prominently forward as the consequence of the menace is moulded in keeping with these emblems. מתרפּס , which has been explained by Flaminius substantially correctly: ut supplex veniat , is intended to be taken as a part. fut. (according to the Arabic grammar, ḥâl muqaddar , lit., a predisposed condition). It thus comprehensively in the singular (like עבר in Psalms 8:9) with one stroke depicts thoroughly humbled pride; for רפס (cf. רמס ) signifies to stamp, pound, or trample, to knock down, and the Hithpa. either to behave as a trampling one, Proverbs 6:3, or to trample upon one's self, i.e., to cast one's self violently upon the ground. Others explain it as conculcandum se praebere ; but such a meaning cannot be shown to exist in the sphere of the Hebrew Hithpael; moreover this “suffering one's self to be trampled upon” does not so well suit the words, which require a more active sense, viz., בּרצּי־כסף cep, in which is expressed the idea that the riches which the Gentiles have hitherto employed in the service of God-opposed worldliness, are no offered to the God of Israel by those who both in outward circumstances and in heart are vanquished (cf. Isa 60; 9). רץ־כּסף (from רצץ , confringere ) is a piece of uncoined silver, a bar, wedge, or ingot of silver. In בּזּר there is a wide leap from the call גּער to the language of description. This rapid change is also to be found in other instances, and more especially in this dithyrambic Psalm we may readily give up any idea of a change in the pointing, as בּזּר or בּזּר (lxx διασκόρπισον ); בּזּר , as it stands, cannot be imperative (Hitzig), for the final vowel essential to the imperat. Piel is wanting. God hath scattered the peoples delighting in war; war is therefore at an end, and the peace of the world is realized.
In Psalms 68:32, the contemplation of the future again takes a different turn: futures follow as the most natural expression of that which is future. The form יאתיוּ , more usually found in pause, here stands pathetically at the beginning, as in Job 12:6. השׁמנּים , compared with the Arabic chšm (whence Arab. chaššm , a nose, a word erroneously denied by Gesenius), would signify the supercilious, contemptuous (cf. Arab. âšammun , nasutus , as an appellation of a proud person who will put up with nothing). On the other hand, compared with Arab. ḥšm , it would mean the fat ones, inasmuch as this verbal stem (root Arab. ḥšš , cf. השׁרת , 2 Samuel 22:12), starting from the primary signification “to be pressed together,” also signifies “to be compressed, become compact,” i.e., to regain one's plumpness, to make flesh and fat, applied, according to the usage of the language, to wasted men and animals. The commonly compared Arab. ḥšı̂m , vir magni famulitii , is not at all natural, - a usage which is brought about by the intransitive signification proper to the verb starting from its radical signification, “to become or be angry, to be zealous about any one or anything,” inasmuch as the nomen verbale Arab. hạšamun signifies in the concrete sense a person, or collectively persons, for whose maintenance, safety, and honour one is keenly solicitous, such as the members of the family, household attendants, servants, neighbours, clients or protègés, guest-friends; also a thing which one ardently seeks, and over the preservation of which one keeps zealous watch (Fleischer). Here there does not appear to be any connecting link whatever in the Arabic which might furnish some hold for the Hebrew; hence it will be more advisable, by comparison of השׁמל and חשׁן , to understand by חשׁמנים , the resplendent, most distinguished ones, perillustres . The dignitaries of Egypt come to give glory to the God of Israel, and Aethiopia, disheartened by fear before Jahve (cf. Habakkuk 3:7), causes his hands to run to Elohim, i.e., hastens to stretch them out. Thus it is interpreted by most expositors. But if it is ידיו , why is it not also יריץ ? We reply, the Hebrew style, even in connection with words that stand close beside one another, does not seek to avoid either the enallage generis (e.g., Job 39:3, Job 39:16), or the enall. numeri (e.g., Psalms 62:5). But “to cause the hands to run” is a far-fetched and easily misunderstood figure. We may avoid it, if, with Böttcher and Olshausen, we disregard the accentuation and interpret thus, “Cush - his hands cause to hasten, i.e., bring on in haste (1 Samuel 17:17; 2 Chronicles 35:13), to Elohim,” viz., propitiating gifts; תּריץ being the predicate to ידיו , according to Ges. §146, 3.
Psalms 68:32-Nahum :
The poet stands so completely in the midst of this glory of the end, that soaring onwards in faith over all the kingdoms of the world, he calls upon them to render praise to the God of Israel. לרכב attaches itself to the dominating notion of שׁירוּ in Psalms 68:33. The heavens of heavens (Deuteronomy 10:14) are by קדם described as primeval (perhaps, following the order of their coming into existence, as extending back beyond the heavens that belong to our globe, of the second and fourth day of Creation). God is said to ride along in the primeval heavens of the heavens (Deuteronomy 33:26), when by means of the cherub (Psalms 18:11) He extends His operations to all parts of these infinite distances and heights. The epithet “who rideth along in the heavens of heavens of the first beginning” denotes the exalted majesty of the superterrestrial One, who on account of His immanency in history is called “He who rideth along through the steppes” ( רכב בּערבות , Psalms 68:5). In יתּן בּקולו we have a repetition of the thought expressed above in Psalms 68:12 by יתּן אמר ; what is intended is God's voice of power, which thunders down everything that contends against Him. Since in the expression נתן בּקול (Psalms 46:7; Jeremiah 12:8) the voice, according to Ges. §138, rem. 3, note, is conceived of as the medium of the giving, i.e., of the giving forth from one's self, of the making one's self heard, we must take קול עז not as the object (as in the Latin phrase sonitum dare ), but as an apposition:
(Note: The accentuation does not decide; it admits of our taking it in both ways. Cf. Psalms 14:5; Psalms 41:2; Psalms 58:7; Psalms 68:28; Proverbs 13:22; Proverbs 27:1.)
behold, He maketh Himself heard with His voice, a powerful voice. Thus let them then give God עז , i.e., render back to Him in praise that acknowledges His omnipotence, the omnipotence which He hath, and of which He gives abundant proof. His glory ( גּאוה ) rules over Israel, more particularly as its guard and defence; His power ( עז ), however, embraces all created things, not the earth merely, but also the loftiest regions of the sky. The kingdom of grace reveals the majesty and glory of His redemptive work (cf. Ephesians 1:6), the kingdom of nature the universal dominion of His omnipotence. To this call to the kingdoms of the earth they respond in v. 36: “Awful is Elohim out of thy sanctuaries.” The words are addressed to Israel, consequently מקדּשׁים is not the heavenly and earthly sanctuary (Hitzig), but the one sanctuary in Jerusalem (Ezek. 21:72) in the manifold character of its holy places (Jeremiah 51:51, cf. Amos 7:9). Commanding reverence - such is the confession of the Gentile world - doth Elohim rule from thy most holy places, O Israel, the God who hath chosen thee as His mediatorial people. The second part of the confession runs: the God of Israel giveth power and abundant strength to the people, viz., whose God He is, equivalent to לעמּו , Psalms 29:11. Israel's might in the omnipotence of God it is which the Gentile world has experienced, and from which it has deduced the universal fact of experience, v. 36 b. All peoples with their gods succumb at last to Israel and its God. This confession of the Gentile world closes with בּרוּך אלהים (which is preceded by Mugrash transformed out of Athnach). That which the psalmist said in the name of Israel in Psalms 68:20, “Blessed be the Lord,” now re-echoes from all the world, “Blessed be Elohim.” The world is overcome by the church of Jahve, and that not merely in outward form, but spiritually. The taking up of all the kingdoms of the world into the kingdom of God, this the great theme of the Apocalypse, is also after all the theme of this Psalm. The first half closed with Jahve's triumphant ascension, the second closes with the results of His victory and triumph, which embrace the world of peoples.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Psalms 68". Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11