Prayer for a Renewal of the Mercies of David
After having recognised the fact that the double inscription of Ps 88 places two irreconcilable statements concerning the origin of that Psalm side by side, we renounce the artifices by which Ethan ( איתן )
(Note: This name איתן is also Phoenician in the form יתן, Itan , Ἰτανός ; ליתן, litan , is Phoenician, and equivalent to לעלם .))
the Ezrahite, of the tribe of Judah (1 Kings 5:11 1 Kings 4:31, 1 Chronicles 2:6), is made to be one and the same person with Ethan (Jeduthun) the son of Kushaiah the Merarite, of the tribe of Levi (1 Chronicles 15:17; 1 Chronicles 6:29-32; 1 Chronicles 6:44-47), the master of the music together with Asaph and Heman, and the chief of the six classes of musicians over whom his six sons were placed as sub-directors (1 Chr. 25).
The collector has placed the Psalms of the two Ezrahites together. Without this relationship of the authors the juxtaposition would also be justified by the reciprocal relation in which the two Psalms stand to one another by their common, striking coincidences with the Book of Job. As to the rest, however, Ps 88 is a purely individual, and Psalms 89 a thoroughly nationally Psalm. Both the poetical character and the situation of the two Psalms are distinct.
The circumstances in which the writer of Psalms 89 finds himself are in most striking contradiction to the promises given to the house of David. He revels in the contents of these promises, and in the majesty and faithfulness of God, and then he pours forth his intense feeling of the great distance between these and the present circumstances in complaints over the afflicted lot of the anointed of God, and prays God to be mindful of His promises, and on the other hand, of the reproach by which at this time His anointed and His people are overwhelmed. The anointed one is not the nation itself (Hitzig), but he who at that time wears the crown. The crown of the king is defiled to the ground; his throne is cast down to the earth; he is become grey-headed before his time, for all the fences of his land are broken through, his fortresses fallen, and his enemies have driven him out of the field, so that reproach and scorn follow him at every step.
There was no occasion for such complaints in the reign of Solomon; but surely in the time of Rehoboam, into the first decade of whose reign Ethan the Ezrahite may have survived king Solomon, who died at the age of sixty. In the fifth year of Rehoboam, Shishak ( שׁישׁק = Σέσογχις = Shishonk I ), the first Pharaoh of the twenty-second (Bubastic) dynasty, marched against Jerusalem with a large army gathered together out of many nations, conquered the fortified cities of Judah, and spoiled the Temple and Palace, even carrying away with him the golden shields of Solomon - a circumstance which the history bewails in a very especial manner. At that time Shemaiah preached repentance, in the time of the greatest calamity of war; king and princes humbled themselves; and in the midst of judgment Jerusalem accordingly experienced the gracious forbearance of God, and was spared. God did not complete his destruction, and there also again went forth דברים טובים, i.e., (cf. Joshua 23:14; Zechariah 1:13) kindly comforting words from God, in Judah. Such is the narrative in the Book of Kings (1 Kings 14:25-28) and as supplemented by the chronicler (2 Chronicles 12:1-12).
During this very period Psalms 89 took its rise. The young Davidic king, whom loss and disgrace make prematurely old, is Rehoboam, that man of Jewish appearance whom Pharaoh Sheshonk is bringing among other captives before the god Amun in the monumental picture of Karnak, and who bears before him in his embattled ring the words Judhmelek (King of Judah) - one of the finest and most reliable discoveries of Champollion, and one of the greatest triumphs of his system of hieroglyphics.
(Note: Vid., Blau, Sisags Zug gegen Juda, illustrated from the monument in Karnak, Deutsche Morgenländ. Zeitschr . xv. 233-250.)
Ps. 89 stands in kindred relationship not only to Ps 74, but besides Psalms 79:1-13, also to Ps 77-78, all of which glance back to the earliest times in the history of Israel. They are all Asaphic Psalms, partly old Asaphic (Ps 77, Ps 78), partly later ones (Ps 74, Psalms 79:1-13). From this fact we see that the Psalms of Asaph were the favourite models in that school of the four wise men to which the two Ezrahites belong.
The poet, who, as one soon observes, is a חכם (for the very beginning of the Psalm is remarkable and ingenious), begins with the confession of the inviolability of the mercies promised to the house of David, i.e., of the הסדי דוד הנּאמנים, Isaiah 55:3.
(Note: The Vulgate renders: Misericordias Domini in aeternum cantabo . The second Sunday after Easter takes its name from this rendering.)
God's faithful love towards the house of David, a love faithful to His promises, will he sing without ceasing, and make it known with his mouth, i.e., audibly and publicly (cf. Job 19:16), to the distant posterity. Instead of חסדי, we find here, and also in Lamentations 3:22, חסדי with a not merely slightly closed syllable. The Lamed of לדר ודר is, according to Psalms 103:7; Psalms 145:12, the datival Lamed . With כּי־אמרתּי (lxx, Jerome, contrary to Psalms 89:3, ὅτι εἶπας ) the poet bases his resolve upon his conviction. נבנה means not so much to be upheld in building, as to be in the course of continuous building (e.g., Job 22:23; Malachi 3:15, of an increasingly prosperous condition). Loving-kindness is for ever (accusative of duration) in the course of continuous building, viz., upon the unshakeable foundation of the promise of grace, inasmuch as it is fulfilled in accordance therewith. It is a building with a most solid foundation, which will not only not fall into ruins, but, adding one stone of fulfilment upon another, will rise ever higher and higher. שׁמים then stands first as casus absol ., and בּהם is, as in Psalms 19:5, a pronoun having a backward reference to it. In the heavens, which are exalted above the rise and fall of things here below, God establishes His faithfulness, so that it stands fast as the sun above the earth, although the condition of things here below seems sometimes to contradict it (cf. Psalms 119:89). Now follow in Psalms 89:4-5 the direct words of God, the sum of the promises given to David and to his seed in 2 Sam. 7, at which the poet arrives more naturally in Psalms 89:20. Here they are strikingly devoid of connection. It is the special substance of the promises that is associated in thought with the “loving-kindness” and “truth” of Psalms 89:3, which is expanded as it were appositionally therein. Hence also אכין and תּכין, וּבניתי and יבּנה correspond to one another. David's seed, by virtue of divine faithfulness, has an eternally sure existence; Jahve builds up David's throne “into generation and generation,” inasmuch as He causes it to rise ever fresh and vigorous, never as that which is growing old and feeble.
At the close of the promises in Psalms 89:4-5 the music is to become forte . And ויודוּ attaches itself to this jubilant Sela . In Psalms 89:6-19 there follows a hymnic description of the exalted majesty of God, more especially of His omnipotence and faithfulness, because the value of the promise is measured by the character of the person who promises. The God of the promise is He who is praised by the heavens and the holy ones above. His way of acting is פלא, of a transcendent, paradoxical, wondrous order, and as such the heavens praise it; it is praised ( יודו, according to Ges. §137, 3) in the assembly of the holy ones, i.e., of the spirits in the other world, the angels (as in Job 5:1; Job 15:15, cf. Deuteronomy 33:2), for He is peerlessly exalted above the heavens and the angels. שׁחק, poetic singular instead of שׁחקים (vid., supra on Psalms 77:18), which is in itself already poetical; and ערך, not, as e.g., in Isaiah 40:18, in the signification to co-ordinate, but in the medial sense: to rank with, be equal to. Concerning בּני אלים, vid., on Psalms 29:1. In the great council (concerning סוד, of both genders, perhaps like כּוס, vid., on Psalms 25:14) of the holy ones also, Jahve is terrible; He towers above all who are about Him (1 Kings 22:19, cf. Daniel 7:10) in terrible majesty. רבּה might, according to Psalms 62:3; Psalms 78:15, be an adverb, but according to the order of the words it may more appropriately be regarded as an adjective; cf. Job 31:34, כּי אערץ המון רבּה, “when I feared the great multitude.” In Psalms 89:9 He is apostrophized with אלהי צבאות as being the One exalted above the heavens and the angels. The question “Who is as Thou?” takes its origin from Exodus 15:11. חסין is not the construct form, but the principal form, like גּביר, ידיד, עויל,יד, and is a Syriasm; for the verbal stem Syr. hṣan is native to the Aramaic, in which Syr. haṣı̄nā' = שׁדּי . In יהּ, what God is is reduced to the briefest possible expression (vid., Psalms 68:19). In the words, “Thy faithfulness compasseth Thee round about,” the primary thought of the poet again breaks through. Such a God it is who has the faithfulness with which He fulfils all His promises, and the promises given to the house of David also, as His constant surrounding. His glory would only strike one with terror; but the faithfulness which encompasses Him softens the sunlike brilliancy of His glory, and awakens trust in so majestic a Ruler.
At the time of the poet the nation of the house of David was threatened with assault from violent foes; and this fact gives occasion for this picture of God's power in the kingdom of nature. He who rules the raging of the sea, also rules the raging of the sea of the peoples, Psalms 65:8. גּאוּת, a proud rising, here of the sea, like גּאוה in Psalms 46:4. Instead of בּשׂוע, Hitzig pleasantly enough reads בּשׁוא = בּשׁאו from שׁאה ; but שׂוא is also possible so far as language is concerned, either as an infinitive = נשׂוא, Psalms 28:2; Isaiah 1:14 (instead of שׂאת ), or as an infinitival noun, like שׂיא, loftiness, Job 20:6, with a likewise rejected Nun . The formation of the clause favours our taking it as a verb: when its waves rise, Thou stillest them. From the natural sea the poet comes to the sea of the peoples; and in the doings of God at the Red Sea a miraculous subjugation of both seas took place at one and the same time. It is clear from Psalms 74:13-17; Isaiah 51:9, that Egypt is to be understood by Rahab in this passage as in Psalms 87:4. The word signifies first of all impetuosity, violence, then a monster, like “the wild beast of the reed,” Psalms 68:31, i.e., the leviathan or the dragon. דּכּאת is conjugated after the manner of the Lamed He verbs, as in Psalms 44:20. כּחלל is to be understood as describing the event or issue (vid., Psalms 18:43): so that in its fall the proudly defiant kingdom is like one fatally smitten. Thereupon in Psalms 89:12-15 again follows in the same co-ordination first the praise of God drawn from nature, then from history. Jahve's are the heavens and the earth. He is the Creator, and for that very reason the absolute owner, of both. The north and the right hand, i.e., the south, represent the earth in its entire compass from one region of the heavens to the other. Tabor on this side of the Jordan represents the west (cf. Hosea 5:1), and Hermon opposite the east of the Holy Land. Both exult by reason of the name of God; by their fresh, cheerful look they give the impression of joy at the glorious revelation of the divine creative might manifest in themselves. In Psalms 89:14 the praise again enters upon the province of history. “An arm with ( עם ) heroic strength,” says the poet, inasmuch as he distinguishes between the attribute inherent in God and the medium of its manifestation in history. His throne has as its מכון, i.e., its immovable foundation (Proverbs 16:12; Proverbs 25:5), righteousness of action and right, by which all action is regulated, and which is unceasingly realized by means of the action. And mercy and truth wait upon Him. קדּם פּני is not; to go before any one ( הלּך לפני, Ps 85:14), but anticipatingly to present one's self to any one, Psalms 88:14; Psalms 95:2; Micah 6:6. Mercy and truth, these two genii of sacred history (Psalms 43:3), stand before His face like waiting servants watching upon His nod.
The poet has now described what kind of God He is upon whose promise the royal house in Israel depends. Blessed, then, is the people that walks in the light of His countenance. הלּך of a self-assured, stately walk. The words ידעי תּרוּעה are the statement of the ground of the blessing interwoven into the blessing itself: such a people has abundant cause and matter for exultation (cf. Psalms 84:5). תּרוּעה is the festive sound of joy of the mouth (Numbers 23:21), and of trumpets or sackbuts (Psalms 27:6). This confirmation of the blessing is expanded in Psalms 89:17-19. Jahve's שׁם, i.e., revelation or manifestation, becomes to them a ground and object of unceasing joy; by His צדקה, i.e., the rigour with which He binds Himself to the relationship He has entered upon with His people and maintains it, they are exalted above abjectness and insecurity. He is תּפארת עזּמו, the ornament of their strength, i.e., their strength which really becomes an ornament to them. In Psalms 89:18 the poet declares Israel to be this happy people. Pinsker's conjecture, קרנם (following the Targum), destroys the transition to Psalms 89:19, which is formed by Psalms 89:18 . The plural reading of Kimchi and of older editions (e.g., Bomberg's), קרנינוּ, is incompatible with the figure; but it is immaterial whether we read תּרים with the Chethîb (Targum, Jerome), or with the Kerî (lxx, Syriac) תּרוּם .
(Note: Zur Geschichte des Karaismus, pp. קפא and קפב, according to which, reversely, in Joshua 5:1 עברוּ is to be read instead of עברם, and Isaiah 33:2 זרענוּ instead of זרעם, Psalms 12:8 תשמרנּוּ instead of תשמרם, Micah 7:19 חטאתנוּ instead of חטאתם, Job 32:8 תביננּוּ instead of תבינם, Proverbs 25:27 כבודנוּ instead of כבודם (the limiting of our honour brings honour, - an unlikely interpretation of the חקר ).)
מגנּנוּ and מלכּנוּ in Psalms 89:19 are parallel designations of the human king of Israel; מגן as in Ps 47:10, but not in Psalms 84:10. For we are not compelled, with a total disregard of the limits to the possibilities of style (Ew. §310, a ), to render Psalms 89:19 : and the Holy One of Israel, (as to Him, He) is our King (Hitzig), since we do not bring down the Psalm beyond the time of the kings. Israel's shield, Israel's king, the poet says in the holy defiant confidence of faith, is Jahve's, belongs to the Holy One of Israel, i.e., he stands as His own possession under the protection of Jahve, the Holy One, who has taken Israel to Himself for a possession; it is therefore impossible that the Davidic throne should become a prey to any worldly power.
Having thus again come to refer to the king of Israel, the poet now still further unfolds the promise given to the house of David. The present circumstances are a contradiction to it. The prayer to Jahve, for which the way is thus prepared, is for the removal of this contradiction. A long line, extending beyond the measure of the preceding lines, introduces the promises given to David. With אז the respective period of the past is distinctly defined. The intimate friend of Jahve ( חסיד ) is Nathan (1 Chronicles 17:15) or David, according as we translate בחזון “in a vision” or “by means of a vision.” But side by side with the לחסידך we also find the preferable reading לחסידיך, which is followed in the renderings of the lxx, Syriac, Vulgate, Targum, Aquila, Symmachus, and the Quarta, and is adopted by Rashi, Aben-Ezra, and others, and taken up by Heidenheim and Baer. The plural refers to Samuel and Nathan, for the statement brings together what was revealed to these two prophets concerning David. עזר is assistance as a gift, and that, as the designation of the person succoured by it ( שׁוּה על as in Psalms 21:6) with גּבּור shows, aid in battle. בּחוּר (from בּחר = בּגר in the Mishna: to ripen, to be manly or of marriageable age, distinct from בּחיר in Psalms 89:4) is a young man, adolescens : while yet a young man David was raised out of his humble lowly condition (Psalms 78:71) high above the people. When he received the promise (2 Sam. 7) he had been anointed and had attained to the lordship over all Israel. Hence the preterites in Psalms 89:20-21, which are followed by promissory futures from Psalms 89:22 onwards. תּכּון is fut. Niph ., to be established, to prove one's self to be firm, unchangeable (Psalms 78:37), a stronger expression than תּהיה, 1 Samuel 18:12, 1 Samuel 18:14; 2 Samuel 3:10. The Hiph . השּׁיא, derived from נשׁא = נשׁה, to credit (vid., on Isaiah 24:2; Gesenius, Hengstenberg), does not give any suitable sense; it therefore signifies here as elsewhere, “to impose upon, surprise,” with בּ, as in Psalms 55:16 with על . Psalms 89:23 is the echo of 2 Samuel 7:10.
What is promised in Psalms 89:26 is a world-wide dominion, not merely dominion within the compass promised in the primeval times (Genesis 15:18; 2 Chronicles 9:26), in which case it ought to have been said ובנהר (of the Euphrates). Nor does the promise, however, sound so definite and boundless here as in Psalms 72:8, but it is indefinite and universal, without any need for our asking what rivers are intended by נהרות . נתן יד בּ, like שׁלח (in Isaiah 11:14, of a giving and taking possession. With אף־אני (with retreated tone, as in Psalms 119:63, Psalms 119:125) God tells with what He will answer David's filial love. Him who is the latest-born among the sons of Jesse, God makes the first-born ( בּכור from בּכר, to be early, opp . לקשׁ, to be late, vid., Job 2:1-13 :21), and therefore the most favoured of the “sons of the Most High,” Psalms 82:6. And as, according to Deuteronomy 28:1, Israel is to be high ( עליון ) above all nations of the earth, so David, Israel's king, in whom Israel's national glory realizes itself, is made as the high one ( עליון ) with respect to the kings, i.e., above the kings, of the earth. In the person of David his seed is included; and it is that position of honour which, after having been only prelusively realized in David and Solomon, must go on being fulfilled in his seed exactly as the promise runs. The covenant with David is, according to Psalms 89:29, one that shall stand for ever. David is therefore, as Psalms 89:30 affirms, eternal in his seed; God will make David's seed and throne לעד, into eternal, i.e., into such as will abide for ever, like the days of heaven, everlasting. This description of eternal duration is, as also in Sir. 45:15, Bar. 1:11, Taken from Deuteronomy 11:21; the whole of Psalms 89:30 is a poetic reproduction of 2 Samuel 7:16.
Now follows the paraphrase of 2 Samuel 7:14, that the faithlessness of David's line in relation to the covenant shall not interfere with (annul) the faithfulness of God - a thought with which one might very naturally console one's self in the reign of Rehoboam. Because God has placed the house of David in a filial relationship to Himself, He will chastise the apostate members as a father chastises his son; cf. Proverbs 23:13. In 1 Chronicles 17:13 the chronicler omits the words of 2 Samuel 7:14 which there provide against perverted action ( העוות ) on the part of the seed of David; our Psalm proves their originality. But even if, as history shows, this means of chastisement should be ineffectual in the case of individuals, the house of David as such will nevertheless remain ever in a state of favour with Him. In Psalms 89:34 חסדּי לא־אפיר מעמּו corresponds to וחסדּי־לא־יסוּר ממּנּוּ in 2 Samuel 7:15 (lxx, Targum): the fut . Hiph . of פרר is otherwise always אפר ; the conjecture אסיר is therefore natural, yet even the lxx translators ( ου ̓ μὴ διασκεδάσω ) had אפיר before them. שׁקּר בּ as in Psalms 44:18. The covenant with David is sacred with God: He will not profane it ( חלּל, to loose the bonds of sanctity). He will fulfil what has gone forth from His lips, i.e., His vow, according to Deuteronomy 23:24 , cf. Numbers 30:3 . One thing hath He sworn to David; not: once = once for all (lxx), for what is introduced by Psalms 89:36 (cf. Psalms 27:4) and follows in Psalms 89:37, Psalms 89:38, is in reality one thing (as in Psalms 62:12, two). He hath sworn it per sanctitatem suam . Thus, and not in sanctuario meo , בּקדשׁי in this passage and Amos 4:2 (cf. on Psalms 60:8) is to be rendered, for elsewhere the expression is בּי, Genesis 22:16; Isaiah 45:23, or בּנפשׁו, Amos 6:8; Jeremiah 51:14, or בּשׁמי, Jeremiah 44:26, or בּימינו, Isaiah 62:8. It is true we do not read any set form of oath in 2 Sam. 7, 1 Chr. 17, but just as Isaiah, Isaiah 54:9, takes the divine promise in Genesis 8:21 as an oath, so the promise so earnestly and most solemnly pledged to David may be accounted by Psalm-poesy (here and in Psalms 132:11), which reproduces the historical matter of fact, as a promise attested with an oath. With אם in Psalms 89:36 God asserts that He will not disappoint David in reference to this one thing, viz., the perpetuity of his throne. This shall stand for ever as the sun and moon; for these, though they may one day undergo a change (Psalms 102:27), shall nevertheless never be destroyed. In the presence of 2 Samuel 7:16 it looks as if Psalms 89:38 ought to be rendered: and as the witness in the clouds shall it (David's throne) be faithful (perpetual). By the witness in the clouds one would then have to understand the rainbow as the celestial memorial and sign of an everlasting covenant. Thus Luther, Geier, Schmid, and others. But neither this rendering, nor the more natural one, “and as the perpetual, faithful witness in the clouds,” is admissible in connection with the absence of the כּ of comparison. Accordingly Hengstenberg, following the example of Jewish expositors, renders: “and the witness in the clouds is perpetual,” viz., the moon, so that the continuance of the Davidic line would be associated with the moon, just as the continuance of the condemned earth is with the rainbow. But in what sense would the moon have the name, without example elsewhere, of witness? Just as the Book of Job was the key to the conclusion of Ps 88, so it is the key to this ambiguous verse of the Psalm before us. It has to be explained according to Job 16:19, where Job says: “Behold in heaven is my witness, and my surety in the heights.” Jahve, the אל נאמן (Deuteronomy 7:9), seals His sworn promise with the words, “and the witness in the sky (ethereal heights) is faithful” (cf. concerning this Waw in connection with asseverations, Ew. §340, c ). Hengstenberg's objection, that Jahve cannot be called His own witness, is disposed of by the fact that עד frequently signifies the person who testifies anything concerning himself; in this sense, in fact, the whole Tôra is called עדוּת ה (the testimony of Jahve).
Now after the poet has turned his thoughts towards the beginnings of the house of David which were so rich in promise, in order that he might find comfort under the sorrowful present, the contrast of the two periods is become all the more sensible to him. With ואתּה in Psalms 89:39 (And Thou - the same who hast promised and affirmed this with an oath) his Psalm takes a new turn, for which reason it might even have been ועתּה . זנח is used just as absolutely here as in Psalms 44:24; Psalms 74:1; Psalms 77:8, so that it does not require any object to be supplied out of Psalms 89:39 . נארתּה in Psalms 89:40 the lxx renders kate'strepsas; it is better rendered in Lamentations 2:7 ἀπετίναξε ; for נאר is synonymous with נער, to shake off, push away, cf. Arabic el - menâ‛ir , the thrusters (with the lance). עבדּך is a vocational name of the king as such. His crown is sacred as being the insignia of a God-bestowed office. God has therefore made the sacred thing vile by casting it to the ground ( חלּל לארץ, as in Psalms 74:17, to cast profaningly to the ground). The primary passage to Psalms 89:41-42, is Psalms 80:13. “His hedges” are all the boundary and protecting fences which the land of the king has; and מבצריו “the fortresses” of his land (in both instances without כל, because matters have not yet come to such a pass).
(Note: In the list of the nations and cities conquered by King Sheshonk I are found even cities of the tribe of Issachar, e.g., Shen - ma - an, Sunem ; vid., Brugsch, Reiseberichte, S. 141-145, and Blau as referred to above.)
In שׁסּהוּ the notions of the king and of the land blend together. עברי־דרך are the hordes of the peoples passing through the land. שׁכניו are the neighbouring peoples that are otherwise liable to pay tribute to the house of David, who sought to take every possible advantage of that weakening of the Davidic kingdom. In Psalms 89:44 we are neither to translate “rock of his sword” (Hengstenberg), nor “O rock” (Olshausen). צוּר does not merely signify rupes, but also from another root ( צוּר, Arab. ṣâr , originally of the grating or shrill noise produced by pressing and squeezing, then more particularly to cut or cut off with pressure, with a sharply set knife or the like) a knife or a blade (cf. English knife, and German kneifen , to nip): God has decreed it that the edge or blade of the sword of the king has been turned back by the enemy, that he has not been able to maintain his ground in battle ( הקמתו with ē instead of ı̂ , as also when the tone is not moved forward, Micah 5:4). In Psalms 89:45 the Mem of מטהרו, after the analogy of Ezekiel 16:41; Ezekiel 34:10, and other passages, is a preposition: cessare fecisti eum a splendore suo . A noun מטּהר = מטהר with Dag. dirimens,
(Note: The view of Pinsker ( Einleitung, S. 69), that this Dag . is not a sign of the doubling of the letter, but a diacritic point (that preceded the invention of the system of vowel-points), which indicated that the respective letter was to be pronounced with a Chateph vowel (e.g., miṭŏhar ), is incorrect. The doubling Dag . renders the Shebâ audible, and having once become audible it readily receives this or that colouring according to the nature of its consonant and of the neighbouring vowel.)
like מקדּשׁ Exodus 15:17, מנּזר Nahum 3:17 (Abulwalîd, Aben-Ezra, Parchon, Kimchi, and others), in itself improbable in the signification required here, is not found either in post-biblical or in biblical Hebrew. טהר, like צהר, signifies first of all not purity, but brilliancy. Still the form טהר does not lie at the basis of it in this instance; for the reading found here just happens not to be טהרו, but מטּהרו ; and the reading adopted by Norzi, Heidenheim, and Baer, as also by Nissel and others, so far as form is concerned is not distinct from it, viz., מטּהרו ( miṭtŏharo ), the character of the Shebâ being determined by the analogy of the å following (cf. בּסּערה, 2 Kings 2:1), which presupposes the principal form טהר (Böttcher, §386, cf. supra, 2:31, note). The personal tenor of Psalms 89:46 requires that it should be referred to the then reigning Davidic king, but not as dying before his time (Olshausen), but as becoming prematurely old by reason of the sorrowful experiences of his reign. The larger half of the kingdom has been wrested from him; Egypt and the neighbouring nations also threaten the half that remains to him; and instead of the kingly robe, shame completely covers him.
After this statement of the present condition of things the psalmist begins to pray for the removal of all that is thus contradictory to the promise. The plaintive question, Psalms 89:47, with the exception of one word, is verbatim the same as Psalms 79:5. The wrath to which quousque refers, makes itself to be felt, as the intensifying (vid., Psalms 13:2) לנצח implies, in the intensity and duration of everlasting wrath. חלד is this temporal life which glides past secretly and unnoticed (Psalms 17:14); and זכר־אני is not equivalent to זכרני (instead of which by way of emphasis only זכרני אני can be said), but אני מה־חלד stands for מה־חלד אני - according to the sense equivalent to אני מה־חדל, Psalms 39:5, cf. Psalms 39:6. The conjecture of Houbigant and modern expositors, זכר אדני (cf. Psalms 89:51), is not needed, since the inverted position of the words is just the same as in Psalms 39:5. In Psalms 89:48 it is not pointed על־מה שׁוא, “wherefore (Job 10:2; Job 13:14) hast Thou in vain (Psalms 127:1) created?” (Hengstenberg), but על־מה־שּׁוא, on account of or for what a nothing ( מה־שׁוא belonging together as adjective and substantive, as in Psalms 30:10; Job 26:14) hast Thou created all the children of men? (De Wette, Hupfeld, and Hitzig). על, of the ground of a matter and direct motive, which is better suited to the question in Psalms 89:49 than the other way of taking it: the life of all men passes on into death and Hades; why then might not God, within this brief space of time, this handbreadth, manifest Himself to His creatures as the merciful and kind, and not as the always angry God? The music strikes in here, and how can it do so otherwise than in elegiac mesto ? If God's justice tarries and fails in this present world, then the Old Testament faith becomes sorely tempted and tried, because it is not able to find consolation in the life beyond. Thus it is with the faith of the poet in the present juncture of affairs, the outward appearance of which is in such perplexing contradiction to the loving-kindness sworn to David and also hitherto vouchsafed. חסדים has not the sense in this passage of the promises of favour, as in 2 Chronicles 6:42, but proofs of favour; הראשׁנים glances back at the long period of the reigns of David and of Solomon.
(Note: The Pasek between חראשׁנים and אדני is not designed merely to remove the limited predicate from the Lord, who is indeed the First and the Last, but also to secure its pronunciation to the guttural Aleph, which might be easily passed over after Mem ; cf. Genesis 1:27; Genesis 21:17; Genesis 30:20; Genesis 42:21, and frequently.)
The Asaph Ps 77 and the Tephilla Isa. 63 contain similar complaints, just as in connection with Psalms 89:51 one is reminded of the Asaph Psalms 79:2, Psalms 79:10, and in connection with Psalms 89:52 of Psalms 79:12. The phrase נשׂא בחיקו is used in other instances of loving nurture, Numbers 11:12; Isaiah 40:11. In this passage it must have a sense akin to חרפּת עבדיך . It is impossible on syntactic grounds to regard כּל־רבּים עמּים as still dependent upon חרפּת (Ewald) or, as Hupfeld is fond of calling it, as a “post-liminiar” genitive. Can it be that the כל is perhaps a mutilation of כּלמּת, after Ezekiel 36:15, as Böttcher suggests? We do not need this conjecture. For (1) to carry any one in one's bosom, if he is an enemy, may signify: to be obliged to cherish him with the vexation proceeding from him (Jeremiah 15:15), without being able to get rid of him; (2) there is no doubt that רבּים can, after the manner of numerals, be placed before the substantive to which it belongs, Ezekiel 32:10, Proverbs 31:29; 1 Chronicles 28:5; Nehemiah 9:28; cf. the other position, e.g., Jeremiah 16:16; (3) consequently כּל־רבּים עמּים may signify the “totality of many peoples” just as well as כּל גּוים רבּים in Ezekiel 31:6. The poet complains as a member of the nation, as a citizen of the empire, that he is obliged to foster many nations in his bosom, inasmuch as the land of Israel was overwhelmed by the Egyptians and their allies, the Libyans, Troglodytes, and Ethiopians. The אשׁר which follows in Psalms 89:52 cannot now be referred back over Psalms 89:51 to חרפּת ( quâ calumniâ ), and yet the relative sense, not the confirmatory (because, quoniam ), is at issue. We therefore refer it to עמים, and take אויביך as an apposition, as in Psalms 139:20 : who reproach Thee, (as) Thine enemies, Jahve, who reproach the footsteps ( עקּבות as in Psalms 77:20 with Dag. dirimens , which gives it an emotional turn) of Thine anointed, i.e., they follow him everywhere, wheresoever he may go, and whatsoever he may do. With these significant words, עקּבות משׁיחך, the Third Book of the Psalms dies away.
(Heb.: 89:53) The closing doxology of the Third Book.
The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on Psalms 89". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany