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Saturday, July 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 68

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Verses 1-2


It has been thought that this psalm, this song (Psalms 68:1), was made on the occasion of the bringing up of the ark to Mount Zion after its humiliating capture by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4:17; 1 Samuel 4:221 Samuel 5:1) and its stay in the house of Obed-edom (2 Samuel 6:1-Exodus :; 2 Samuel 6:12-Job :). This bringing up of the ark is accompanied by music and song (1 Chronicles 15:27-Hosea :). Prophetically, we see in it a type of the deliverance the LORD gives by going to Zion, Jerusalem: “Listen! Your watchmen lift up [their] voices, they shout joyfully together; for they will see with their own eyes when the LORD restores Zion” (Isaiah 52:8; cf. Isaiah 30:30-Obadiah :; Isaiah 31:4).

In fact, Psalm 68 is a summary and culmination of the previous psalms (Psalms 61-67). It is clearly a Messianic psalm. Psalms 68:18 is quoted by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians and applied to the ascension of the Lord Jesus (Ephesians 4:8).

The latter provides the key to understanding this psalm: this psalm is about the triumphal march of Christ (cf. Luke 24:44; John 5:39). The psalmist makes use of various exalted portions of the Old Testament, such as sayings of Moses, songs of Deborah and of Hannah, the book of Deuteronomy and even the prophecies of Balaam. Added to this is the fact that God is mentioned here by a multitude of names.

God rises

For “for the choir director” (Psalms 68:1) see at Psalm 4:1.

It is “a Psalm. A Song of David”. It is the last “psalm” in the row of four psalms called “a song”. See further at Psalm 65:1.

The psalm begins majestically: “Let God arise” (Psalms 68:1; cf. Psalms 44:26; 2 Chronicles 6:41). This is to say that God arises to go and act and fulfill Psalm 110 (Psalms 110:1). These words recall what Moses said when the ark went up with the people in the wilderness (Numbers 10:35). The ark is the symbol of God’s presence and protection. It is His throne. God takes His place in front the people, at the head of His people. As a result, the enemies are scattered everywhere. Those who hate Him, because they have no connection with Him, flee “before Him”.

When He arises in His majesty, He drives away His haters with the same ease with which “smoke is driven away” (Psalms 68:2). It is not an unequal battle, no, there is no battle at all, it is over before it begins (Psalms 2:5-Joshua :). Just His arising, without speaking a word or taking any special action, causes the disappearance of His haters. Like expelled smoke, they disappear without leaving a trace of them (cf. Hosea 13:3). David uses another comparison. The enemies of God are also like wax that melts by fire (cf. Micah 1:4). No shape or resistance remains. So easily “the wicked perish before God” (cf. Isaiah 11:4).

Verses 3-6

The Righteous Rejoice

The rising of God has a totally different result for the righteous than it does for God’s enemies. They are “glad” (Psalms 68:3). With them, a tremendous joy arises. While the wicked perish “before God” (Psalms 68:2), the righteous “exult before God” and “rejoice with gladness”. The wicked are perished by the presence of God, but the righteous are with great and continually increasing joy in God’s presence. The heart is full of joy and gladness, which is exuberantly and constantly expressed.

The joy of the righteous turns into an appeal to sing to God, to sing praises to His Name (Psalms 68:4; cf. 2 Chronicles 20:1-Amos :). The repetition indicates the intense desire to sing to Him. He is coming and a song must “lift up“ for Him, or better “a highway” must be cast up for Him “who rides through the deserts” (cf. Isaiah 40:3; Isaiah 62:10). To cast up a highway for Him means that the people remove all impediments to give God ample room in their lives.

It means repenting and giving Him His due place in their hearts. It is about highways in the heart (Psalms 84:5; Matthew 3:1-Leviticus :). Heights must be lowered and valleys filled. The pride must disappear. The valleys, or lack of knowledge, must be filled. By the desert, Hebrew aravot, is meant the dry wilderness of Judea. This is a good description of the way of the Lord Jesus to Jerusalem in connection with the final fight. This word also appears in Isaiah 40: “Make smooth in the desert (arava – singular) a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3). In the desert He has room to do His work.

Cast up a highway must be done because His Name is “LORD”. As has already been noted, in this second book of psalms the name LORD, Yahweh, is little used and substituted by God, Elohim. This is because the believing remnant is far away from Jerusalem. Now that God has arisen, and is on His way to His place of rest in Zion, the name LORD is used again. With this Name He has made Himself known to His people Israel only (Exodus 3:15). He is the God of the covenant with His people and He is going to fulfill all that He has committed Himself to through that covenant (Exodus 6:6-Ruth :). The awareness of this is cause to “exult before Him”.

The name “LORD”, Yahweh, occurs several times in this psalm. Furthermore, God, Elohim, Lord, Adonai, and Almighty, Shaddai, are mentioned throughout, for it is primarily about His supremacy, about His Divine ruling power. This God is all that Israel and all the nations need.

God is both an almighty Helper against enemies and a merciful “father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows” (Psalms 68:5; cf. Jeremiah 49:11). His people have been like orphans and also like a widow. The cause of this is their rejection of Him, which caused Him to leave them to themselves. But now He takes care of them (cf. Exodus 22:22-Isaiah :; Deuteronomy 27:19).

Thus “is God in His holy habitation”, which is heaven (Jeremiah 25:30). That is, we now see revealed on earth that God is the Protector of the weak. In this context, the weak are the faithful remnant described as orphans and widows.

God is no different in His holy dwelling than He is in His actions on earth. Man’s actions in public are often different from those in his home, in the private sphere. With God it is not so. The holiness that marks His dwelling place also marks His actions on earth. He can be merciful to those in need because all His holy requirements have been met through His beloved Son, the Messiah and LORD of His people. He can be merciful to His people because of their confession and accept them into His holy presence.

He is a God Who “makes a home for the lonely” (Psalms 68:6). His people have been scattered and lonely. Now that He has taken care of His people, their members are together again as a household. Man was not created to be alone. God established the family in order to develop a sense of community. In this way He wants to show the world the value He as a Father attaches to have fellowship with His children. It is good to keep an eye on God’s original in this regard as well, because the family as an institution of God has been rejected. The reason for this is that everything is about the satisfaction of individual needs.

God is also a God “who leads out the prisoners into prosperity”. The members of His people have been prisoners among the nations. Now God has set them free from captivity and brought them into the prosperity of the realm of peace. “The rebellious”, on the other hand, do not come into a land of prosperity, but “dwell in a parched land”, a land where there is a lack of everything (cf. Deuteronomy 21:18-Ecclesiastes :).

As an application for us, we know that after our deliverance from the bondage of sin, we have come to belong to the family of God’s children. We are “no longer strangers and aliens”, but we have become “fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19). We have been showered with spiritual, heavenly, and eternal blessings that we may enjoy in fellowship with the Father.

Verses 7-14

God Goes Out Before the People

In this section, David lists important events in the history of the people of God. He begins with God going forth before His people (Psalms 68:7; Exodus 13:21). God goes forth before them “through the wilderness” (cf. Isaiah 43:19). This refers to the wilderness journey of God’s people after they are delivered from Egypt, with the ark marching ahead of the people as a symbol of His presence (Numbers 10:33).

We see here a picture of the Lord Jesus going forth ahead of His own. He does not walk behind the flock to chase them, but He goes forth before His sheep (John 10:4). He goes forth before the many sons of God to lead them as the Leader into full salvation (Hebrews 2:10). He has already gone out as forerunner for His own in the sanctuary, where He leads them to (Hebrews 6:19-Proverbs :).

God’s moving out ahead of His people has been accompanied by the trembling of the earth (Psalms 68:8; cf. Judges 5:4). Prophetically this will be fulfilled during the battle for Jerusalem (Isaiah 29:6; Joel 3:16). When God appears, it does not leave nature unaffected. The heavens too respond by giving streams of rain of refreshment “at the presence of God”, as the next verse also says. The mighty Mount Sinai also trembles “at the presence of God, the God of Israel” (cf. Ex 19:8). Sinai recalls the legislation, the disclosure of the conditions of God under which the people can receive the blessing (Nehemiah 9:13).

Then the people enter the land. There God sheds abroad “a plentiful rain” on the land (Psalms 68:9). It is the land that God has chosen as His inheritance. He confirmed it with His very mild rain by the time the land was parched. This will happen during the prophecy of the two witnesses who have the power “to shut up the sky, so that rain will not fall during the days of their prophesying” (Revelation 11:6). Then comes the moment, when the remnant has declared that the LORD is God, that the rain falls in abundance.

His “creatures settled in it” (Psalms 68:10), that is His people seen as a flock cared for by Him (cf. Ezekiel 36:38). God in His goodness has redeemed His property, His land, for His “poor” people, the people who are in such a miserable condition.

We can also apply this to us, who are also His own people (Titus 2:14). When we are poor and exhausted, we are encouraged and refreshed by the Lord Jesus. He works this through His Spirit and His Word. Both are compared to water. Christ shows us what we have become in Him to encourage us and He shows us Who He is and will be present to refresh us.

The Lord “gives the command” (Psalms 68:11). What He commanded is not communicated. From the context we can think of the conquest of the land when it was taken. These are the “[good] tidings”, which He proclaims by “the women” who “are a great host” (cf. 1 Samuel 18:6-Judges :). The messengers mention the good news of fleeing “kings of armies” (Psalms 68:12). We can think of Miriam, who sings with the women about the downfall of Pharaoh and his horsemen (Exodus 15:19-Ecclesiastes :) and of Deborah, who sings about the downfall of Sisera (Judges 5:24-Daniel :). Similarly, the women who proclaim the message of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus thereby bring the good news that death has been defeated.

To emphasize the power of this proclamation, it is repeated that the kings flee. They have been defeated (cf. Zechariah 12:6). The spoil captured from them was shared by the victors who went out to fight with the home front, with “she who remains at home” (cf. Judges 5:29-Amos :), by whom the spoil was also further distributed. The dividing of the spoil (Zechariah 14:14) is an act of blessing as a result of a victory. God let the Lord Jesus do that as a reward for His victory on the cross (Isaiah 53:12).

“When you lie down among the sheepfolds” (Psalms 68:13) is literally “when you lie down among the cooking stones”. A sheepfold consists of a row of piled up stones. Those lying between them are the humblest of shepherds. The “cooking stones” can also refer to utensils in a kitchen. Those who lie between the stones are then the servants in the kitchen. In the context of the psalm, the expression indicates that the humblest shepherds or even the lowest servants will share in the spoils, so abundant is the spoil.

The comparison to “the wings of a dove covered with silver, and its pinions with glistening gold” speaks of the abundance of the spoils. Everything that glitters is not fake, but real silver and real gold. The wings represent protection. God has protected them.

The dove symbolizes faithfulness and the Holy Spirit in connection with the people, that is, the remnant (Song of Solomon 2:14). They have remained faithful to Him because of the power of the Holy Spirit. The silver speaks of the price paid for the redemption and reconciliation of the remnant. Christ paid the price (1 Peter 1:18-Psalms :). The glistening, or green-glossy gold speaks of the Divine glory seen in the renewal of nature. Green is the primary color of nature. This is a picture of the freshness of the new life that is the portion of all who belong to Christ.

The Almighty’s action results in the scattering of kings throughout the land (Psalms 68:14). His mighty victory is associated with snowing “in Zalmon”, a mountain near Shechem (Judges 9:47-Galatians :). Zalmon means “the dark one”, because of its multitude of tall trees. When it snows on this dark mountain – which is exceptional, because it almost never snows there – everything suddenly turns white. Thus, on that day, Israel will suddenly pass from the darkness of tribulation to the light of redemption. They will be transferred from darkness to the kingdom of light (cf. Colossians 1:13).

It has been assumed that this is a poetic description of the coldness of the death which due to the whiteness of the large number of corpses is reminiscent of snow. It may also mean that His great victory is a refreshment for the remnant, as a shower of snow is on the day of harvest (Proverbs 25:13).

Verses 15-18

Gifts Received and Given

David points to “the mountain of Bashan” as “a mountain of God”, i.e. a mighty mountain, and as “a mountain [of many] peaks” (Psalms 68:15). A mountain is a symbol of a kingdom (cf. Daniel 2:34-Habakkuk :; Daniel 2:44-Romans :). Through David, God asks the question to this kingdom why it looks with envy “at the mountain” (Psalms 68:16). By “the mountain” he means Mount Zion, which God “has desired as His abode”. Mount Zion exceeds all impressive mountains because it is associated with the Man after God’s heart. So it is with the city of Jerusalem, which surpasses all the impressive cities of the world because it is the city of the great King (Psalms 87:1-Judges :).

His purpose is fixed, and He will execute it without anyone objecting: “Surely the LORD will dwell [there] forever”. God will dwell in the midst of His people, no matter what the surrounding ‘mountains’ may think or undertake. God has made His choice which determines everything. It is wisdom to agree to that.

To realize His purpose, “myriads, thousands upon thousands” chariots are at His disposal (Psalms 68:17). They are “the chariots of God”, by which are meant His angels (cf. 2 Kings 2:11; 2 Kings 6:17; Hebrews 12:22; Revelation 5:11). He, “the Lord”, Adonai, the sovereign God, is with His people. He is at the head of those countless chariots. He is the Protector of Zion. It is folly to oppose Him and His purpose.

He is “[as at] Sinai in holiness”. Again, that is after Psalms 68:8, the remnant is reminded of Sinai. The LORD Himself descended on Sinai in majesty and splendor with ten thousand angels (Exodus 19:16-Proverbs :; Exodus 24:16; Deuteronomy 33:2). In Psalms 68:8 it is in connection with going forth before of His people; here it is in connection with His dwelling place in the midst of His people.

Here the emphasis is on the fact that by His descending on Mount Sinai the mountain was turned into a sanctuary. In the same impressive way, He appears on Zion which He has chosen as His dwelling place to dwell with His people. On Mount Sinai, the LORD made the covenant with Israel. Now He heads to Zion – from Psalms 68:8 to Psalms 68:16 – to make another covenant. The language is the language of Sinai, but prophetically it is now about the future, about the new covenant (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-Nahum :).

After this description of the loftiness and majesty of God, David speaks not of Him, but to Him (Psalms 68:18). He addresses Him directly and says to Him, Who will dwell on Zion forever: “You have ascended on high, You have led captive [Your] captives”. There, up in heaven, He has “received gifts among men”, i.e. to distribute among men.

Paul explains the meaning of this verse in the letter to the Ephesians. He applies this verse to Christ, Who has won complete victory over the enemy, the devil and his entire system of power. As a result, He has been exalted by God above all and all. From that exalted position He distributes gifts to the members of His body, the church (Ephesians 4:7-Ruth :).

It is all about Christ as the Giver. Paul emphasizes both the place from which He gives, “on high”, and what He has done to be able to give: the captivity taken captive. David speaks in this victory psalm of “on high” and “led captive [Your] captives”. He has already pointed out how God scatters His enemies and causes them to flee, and that kings who rebel against Him perish before Him. For His oppressed people, God’s action means deliverance. That is why they celebrate. This scene looks forward to the beginning of the realm of peace.

Paul quotes this psalm because he knows that the victory, which will be seen openly in the realm of peace, is already a reality for faith. The Lord Jesus has gone through death, risen from death, and “ascended on high”. In the word “ascended” there is divine power, the majesty of the Conqueror.

That He led “captive a host of the captives” (Ephesians 4:8) means that by His death He took away the devil’s power to hold people captive. In Hebrews 2 it says: “That through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14-Ezra :). For all who belong to Him, He has conquered the power of sin, death, the world and the flesh. David puts it this way, that Christ has brought the captives out of bondage and taken them to Himself.

However, it does not stop there. Christ has also given gifts to those who were captives, but have now been set free. First, God gave Christ gifts as a reward for His victory. Those gifts are the ones who have been ransomed by Him from their captivity (John 10:29; John 17:2). In turn, Christ bestows gifts on those who now share in His victory.

The gifts come from One Who has overcome and is now in heaven. We who were in captivity have also been set free. In this way the Lord can also bestow gifts on us. Prophetically, it means that in the realm of peace He gives gifts to His earthly people, that is all those whom He has freed from the captivity of their sins and their rulers, to serve Him with these.

Psalm 68 tells us that Christ received gifts, but tells us nothing about Him giving gifts to people. The latter is a hidden fact that could only be revealed in the New Testament. That happens in the letter to the Ephesians. There Paul says even more about Christ and His victory and the special results for those who belong to the church. That is part of the revelation of the mysteries that relate to the church. These mysteries are now made known to us by the Spirit Who has come down from heaven (1 Peter 1:12).

For David, it is enough to see that God’s promises for His people on earth are fulfilled in and through Christ. The Spirit has made that clear to him. He can compose this victory psalm and sing this victory song because he knows God as his King. That King is none other than Christ.

The great purpose of what Christ has done and what He provides in gifts is that He can dwell with people and that people can dwell with Him to serve Him (Revelation 21:3). Christ, the Righteous One, died for us unrighteous people “that He might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

We, and all who may dwell with God, initially fall into the category of “rebellious” mentioned in the last line (Psalms 68:18). The word “rebellious“ is not mentioned in the letter to the Ephesians because this word applies to the people of Israel (Isaiah 65:2).

God, by His love and grace, broke our rebellion and brought us to repentance. Now we submit with profound gratitude to Him Who has shown such enormous grace to us. This will also be said by those who will dwell as the new Israel in the realm of peace in the presence of Him Who dwells on the mountain He has desired (Psalms 68:16).

Verses 19-23

Escapes From death

What David said to God in Psalms 68:18 causes a blessing of or praise for “the Lord” (Psalms 68:19). In His sovereign exaltation, He bears “us”, that is, the believing remnant, “daily”. “Daily” means every day without exception (cf. Isaiah 46:3-Numbers :). He bears them with His strength in order that they may bear what He gives them to bear. He not only helps them bear their burdens, but He bears them (cf. Deuteronomy 1:31). That God is “our salvation”. They find in His help and in Himself all their happiness and prosperity.

God does not give only a temporary sense of blessedness. What God, “the God”, their God, gives, are “deliverances“ (Psalms 68:20). This can also be translated as the God of salvations. From the word “salvation”, the name ‘Jesus’ is also derived. Jesus means ‘the LORD saves’. Here it is said that God saves. From the New Testament we know that God does so in the Person of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 1:21).

There are many dangers, misfortunes and trials in the believer’s life, but God delivers or saves him from all these different difficulties (2 Timothy 3:11; 2 Timothy 4:18). He is the guarantee that each of His own will attain the complete deliverance or salvation of the realm of peace.

He is “GOD, the Lord”, Yahweh, Adonai, the God Who has made His covenant with them (Yahweh) and has overall dominion, He rules over all (Adonai). To Him, therefore, “belong escapes from death”. This means both escape from mortal danger and deliverance from the power of death itself, whereby death is presented as a person. This is possible because by Christ “death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Corinthians 15:54). Death is no obstacle for Him to give His people what He has promised. He is the Leader who leads them right through death into the full blessing of the realm of peace (Psalms 16:9; Psalms 48:14).

Nor are the enemies a hindrance to the blessing: “Surely God will shatter the head of His enemies, the hairy crown of him who goes on in his guilty deeds” (Psalms 68:21). The enemies of His people are “His enemies”. We can think here of the future king of the north and his allies bringing destruction upon Jerusalem. After that destruction, he leaves an occupying force in Jerusalem and marches on to Egypt. While in Egypt, he hears rumors of an attack on his occupying force in Jerusalem. Then he returns from Egypt to recapture Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus will then shatter him, the head of His enemies (Daniel 11:40-Romans :; cf. Nahum 3:18).

His enemies have tried to thwart Him in fulfilling His promises. This has always proved to be in vain, for it is impossible to thwart God’s plans. They have paid for their foolish attempts to do so en masse with death (Psalms 110:6; cf. Habakkuk 3:14).

The “hairy crown” emphasizes that they have hair on their skulls. The long hair is a symbol of submission and devotion (1 Corinthians 11:15). One of the characteristics of powers under the authority of Satan, who are submissive and devoted to him, is that they have “hair like women’s hair”, that is, they have long hair (Revelation 9:8). Who continues to behave submissively to the devil, “who goes on in his guilty deeds”, choose death.

When “the Lord said, I will bring [them] back from Bashan. I will bring [them] back from the depths of the sea” (Psalms 68:22), it happens. God delivers His people from the strongest power of which Bashan speaks (Psalms 68:15). While in Egypt, he hears rumors of an attack on his occupying force in Jerusalem. Then he returns from Egypt to recapture Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus will then crush Him, the head of His enemies (Daniel 11:40-Romans :; cf. Nahum 3:18).

His enemies have tried to thwart Him in fulfilling His promises. This has always proved to be in vain, for it is impossible to thwart God’s plans. They have paid for their foolish attempts to do so en masse with death (Psalms 110:6; cf. Habakkuk 3:14).

The “hairy skull” emphasizes that they have hair on their skulls. The long hair is a symbol of submission and devotion (1 Corinthians 11:15). One of the characteristics of powers under the authority of Satan, who are submissive and devoted to him, is that they have “hair like women’s hair”, that is, they have long hair (Revelation 9:8). Those who continue to behave submissively to the devil, “who continue in their guilty walk”, choose death.

When “the Lord has said, I will bring you back from Bashan; I will bring you back from the depths of the sea” (Psalms 68:23), it happens. God delivers His people from the strongest power of which Bashan speaks (Psalms 68:15). Bashan is the Golan Heights, the mountain range east of the Sea of Galilee, to which the remnant fled (Matthew 24:16). So the LORD will bring the remnant of Judah back from there. No one can stop Him in that.

Even though His people are hidden in “the depths of the sea” and untraceable by people, God knows where they are and will bring them back to their land from there. The sea is a symbol of the nations (Revelation 17:15; Isaiah 57:20). Here we find an indication that the ten tribes, scattered and hidden among the nations, will be brought back to the promised land by God around this time.

When His people are back in their land, the tables will be turned. God’s people’s “foot may shatter [them] in blood” (Psalms 68:23; cf. Psalms 58:10; Isaiah 63:3; Revelation 14:20). This is another expression of victory over enemies that is appropriate for Israel, God’s earthly people, but not appropriate for the church, God’s heavenly people. The battle of the gospel is not a literal battle against blood and flesh, but a spiritual struggle against evil powers in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).

It indicates agreement with the judgment of God that He has righteously exercised over His enemies. Those enemies have defied God in terrible ways and ruthlessly trampled His people. The promise that “the tongue of your dogs [may have] its portion from [your] enemies” indicates God’s abhorrence of these enemies (cf. 1 Kings 21:19; 1 Kings 22:38).

Verses 24-27

The Procession of God

This section is clearly prophetic. It resembles the song of Moses after the deliverance of God’s people from the Egyptians (Exodus 15:1-Ecclesiastes :). Here it is God Who as King in the Person of the Lord Jesus is going to take His own throne. Christ is the King-Priest, the true Melchizedek. Therefore, His throne is also His sanctuary. Now it is not about the restoration of the temple service, but procession or going that is also a triumphal procession or going (Psalms 68:24). The king of the north and his army have been defeated. This triumphal march takes place before “they”, that is, the world.

When God has finally defeated and humbled His enemies, He takes up His residence in the sanctuary. Full of delight, which we hear in the exclamation “O God”, the psalmist says that as the ark was carried up to Jerusalem, the spectators saw its procession into the sanctuary. The procession of the ark is the procession of God, for the ark is His throne. This God David calls “my God, my King”, indicating a personal relationship with Him (cf. John 20:28).

It is a procession that not only has spectators, but in which a crowd joins in the procession (Psalms 68:25; 1 Chronicles 15:14; 1 Chronicles 15:25). “The singers” go in front, after them come “musicians in the midst of the maidens beating tambourines”. It recalls what Miriam and all the women do with tambourines after the deliverance from Egypt and the passage through the Red Sea (Exodus 15:20-Ecclesiastes :).

God wants to meet with a people “in the congregations” where they bless or praise Him as the almighty Creator “God” (Psalms 68:26). He is also “the LORD”, the covenant God of His people. He wants them to praise Him as LORD as well. Those who are called to do so are “of the fountain of Israel”. The fountain or origin of Israel is God Himself (Isaiah 51:1; cf. Psalms 87:7). All who are connected to Him as the living Fountain – which is only possible if they have received His nature (2 Peter 1:4) – can praise Him.

All twelve tribes – for by now the lost ten tribes are also back in the land (Psalms 68:22) – will come and bless God in the congregations (Psalms 68:27). They are represented by Benjamin and Judah from the south and Zebulun and Naphtali from the north. Benjamin is called “the youngest” because he is the youngest son of Jacob and the smallest tribe of Israel (1 Samuel 9:21). It is, however, the tribe that rules, that robs and divides the spoil (cf. Genesis 49:27).

“The princes of Judah”, the king’s tribe, are present to bring up the ark. They lead the way in “their throng”, which is the company of Judah that also walks along. Judah is much larger than Benjamin, has many considerable people and a large company. Yet Benjamin seems to be in the lead in this procession. Thus Benjamin is mentioned prior to Judah. It is also written of him that he rules, which may indicate that he controls the procession.

Zebulun and Naphtali are far from the temple. Yet they are tribes known for their devotion to God in a time of decay (Judges 5:18). Over the territory of these two tribes contempt is brought. It is symbolic of spiritual darkness. The first coming of the Lord Jesus changed this (Isaiah 9:1-Exodus :; Matthew 4:12-Nehemiah :). This will happen again at the second coming of the Lord Jesus, His return to earth. Then He will not be rejected, but accepted and will establish His realm of peace and righteousness.

Verses 28-31

Kings Bring Gifts

God has made His people strong in their battle against the king of the north (Psalms 68:28; Zechariah 12:5-Joshua :; cf. Joshua 1:9). Now they ask Him to give even more strength and to reinforce what He has done to them. There is a desire for more strength so that what God has done will be even more evident. We are able to nullify what God has done to us by working on it ourselves. Here we see that the strength we have been privileged to experience from God should lead us to ask for even more strength so that it becomes ever more evident that God is at work in our lives.

Their request to show Himself strong in relation with God’s action on their behalf applies first and foremost to His temple in Jerusalem (Psalms 68:29). They would like to see God’s strength put into action in kings of foreign powers who bring Him gifts for the sake of His temple in Jerusalem. That is what those kings will do when they see that with all their might they are powerless against the mighty God (cf. Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 60:5). At the birth of the Lord Jesus they brought gold, frankincense and myrrh (Matthew 2:11). At His return they will bring gold and frankincense (Isaiah 60:6). There will be no myrrh with them then, because myrrh speaks of the suffering and dying of the Lord Jesus and that is accomplished.

The second question concerns the revelation of His power toward their enemies. They ask Him to “rebuke the beasts in the reeds” (Psalms 68:30). By the beasts they mean the nations and possibly the Egyptians in particular (cf. Ezekiel 32:2). “The herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples” represents the oppressors and misleaders of the peoples or tribes of apostate Israel (cf. Psalms 22:12).

The leader of apostate Israel, the antichrist, submits himself with “pieces of silver” to the nations. He buys the favor of God-hostile nations (Europe) to oppose the disciplinary rod of God (Assyria). But in faith the psalmist sees the victory of God: “He has scattered the peoples who delight in war.” All the armies that have gathered and find joy in war against God and His people are scattered by Him like chaff in the wind. He drives them out and exterminates them.

God will judge the rebellious nations. A remnant from those nations will come to His dwelling place in Jerusalem. There will “envoys come out of Egypt” to bow down to the true God, the God of Israel (Psalms 68:31; Isaiah 19:20-Song of Solomon :). “Ethiopia will quickly stretch out her hands to God” (cf. Isaiah 45:14). This means that they will do what they need to do quickly: Begging Him to spare them. This is what stretching out their hands to Him speaks of.

Verses 32-34

The Majesty and Strength of God

The “kingdoms of the earth” that were spared from the judgments are called to “sing to God” (Psalms 68:32). Here we see the “great multitude which no one could count” (Revelation 7:9-Esther :). They are to sing “praises to the Lord”. It is He who “rides upon the highest heavens” (Psalms 68:33; cf. Deuteronomy 33:26). It represents in an unparalleled way His majesty from eternity and everywhere in the heavens. He is the unlimited Lord of the universe which cannot contain Him, but which He spans (1 Kings 8:27).

This He expresses with His voice: “He speaks forth with His voice, a mighty voice.” He reveals Himself in His speaking. We hear it in nature through thunder. We hear it in His Word spoken by His prophets, and “in these last days” we hear Him speak “in [His] Son” (Hebrews 1:1-Exodus :).

The subject of the praise of the subjected nations must be God’s sovereign power (Psalms 68:34). He has displayed His majesty over Israel. He has chosen this people to be His people. Therefore, the countless enemies who have sought to wipe this people off the face of the earth through all ages have not succeeded in their goal. God has preserved His people for Himself. Now He makes them the center of blessing for the earth because He dwells in the midst of them.

His strength which He has shown in their protection is the same power with which He governs the clouds [skies is literally clouds]. He rides on them as on a chariot. He sends rain from there upon the earth, whereby He can accompany the rain with dazzling lightning and deafening thunder. He reveals Himself in blessing for His people and in judgment for His enemies.

Verse 35

God Gives His People Strength and Power

David is deeply impressed by God’s strength. In the first line of this last verse, he addresses God again with the words “O God”. He, Who reveals His strength in the clouds, is “awesome” (cf. Deuteronomy 10:17) from His sanctuaries, the heavens where He resides, places above the clouds.

He is again “the God of Israel”, for the period of Lo-Ammi, that is not-My people, is over. Israel has no other God but Him, and He has no other people of whom He is the God in that way. It has often been asked where the God of Israel is when it comes to the suffering that has come upon His people. All questions about that come to an end when He reveals Himself as the God of Israel in His time.

“He gives strength and power to the people” (cf. Zechariah 12:5) so that they will not go down in all the attacks that will be made on them in the end times. They will not owe it to their military superiority or clever defense strategy. That the people will enter the blessing of the realm of peace is due solely to Him.

Therefore, nothing remains but to say with admiration: “Blessed be God!” Then He enthrones upon the praise of Israel (Psalms 22:3).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 68". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-68.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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