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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 24

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-10

Psalms 24:0

A Psalm of David

1          The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof;

The world, and they that dwell therein.

2     For he hath founded it upon the seas,

And established it upon the floods.

3     Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?

Or who shall stand in his holy place?

4     He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart,

Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity,
Nor sworn deceitfully.

5     He shall receive the blessing from the Lord,

And righteousness from the God of his salvation.

6     This is the generation of them that seek him,

That seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.

7     Lift up your heads, O ye gates;

And be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors;
And the King of glory shall come in.

8     Who is this King of glory?

The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle,

9     Lift up your heads, O ye gates;

Even lift them up, ye everlasting doors;

And the King of glory shall come in.

10     Who is this King of glory?

The Lord of hosts,
He is the King of glory. Selah.


Its Contents and Composition.—According to the tradition of the Talmud this Psalm was sung in the temple every Sunday morning during the presentation of the wine offering, and indeed with reference to the history of the Creation. The addition to the title made by the Septuagint, τῆς μιᾶς σαββάτου, corresponds with this. The Church likewise finds it appropriate to use this Psalm on Sundays, as well as at Advent and at the consecration of churches. For unless we would divide the Psalm into two entirely different Psalms (Ewald, Olsh.), the celebration of the entrance of Jehovah into the Holy Place of His gracious presence stands out as the prevailing thought of the whole, which has its essential meaning in the statement of the characteristics of this God and His worshippers. Among these, the all-embracing moral and historical nature of these relations, advancing from victory to victory, is rendered most conspicuous as the decisive characteristic. In this consists the richness of the application of this Psalm, without its thereby being typical (Geier, Stier, Hengst.), or indeed Messianic (Seb. Schmidt, J. H. Mich.). Moreover it is not to be regarded as a free clothing of an idea with general reference to the temple (Hupf.), as instruction and exhortation to the citizens of Zion (Venema), or as a song of dedication composed by David for future use after the example of Psalms 15:0., after that the place for the future temple had been pointed out to him by a revelation, 1 Chronicles 21:22 (the Rabbins, Rudinger, Rosenm., Stier). Moreover, it is entirely unnecessary to regard the doors and gates Psalms 24:7 sq., as those of the stone temple, and then to think of the dedication of the temple of Solomon (De Wette). It may properly be referred to the very ancient citadel of Zion, and the occasion for its composition by David may be found in the removal of the Ark of the Covenant by David from Kirjath Jearim to Mt. Zion (Grotius and most interpreters). Then David had it placed in a tent set up especially for it after his victorious expeditions (2 Samuel 6:17; comp. 2 Samuel 11:11; 1 Kings 1:39), whilst the Mosaic tent remained at Gibeon (1 Chronicles 21:29; 1 Chronicles 16:39), and only afterwards was put with its vessels in the temple of Solomon (1 Kings 8:4). The points of contact with Jeremiah in the language of the expressions (Hitzig) are only of a very general and indefinite kind, and the relation between Psalms 24:3-4 of this Psalm and Psalms 15:0. is not a mere copy. The tone which passes over from the didactic to the hymnic and almost dramatic character, has often led to the supposition of choruses (Rosenm., Tholuck). whose responses Delitzsch puts at first below at the foot of Mt. Zion (Psalms 24:1-6), and then above at the citadel of Zion, and both interrupted and enriched by solo verses.24

Str. I. Psa 24:1. Its fulness, denotes first and properly its inhabitants (Deuteronomy 33:16; Psalms 50:12; Psalms 89:11; comp. Amos 6:8; Psalms 96:11; Psalms 98:7), but allows likewise a wider conception, which is applied by the Apostle Paul, 1 Corinthians 10:26, with reference to the eating of flesh.

Psalms 24:2. The earth, especially the orb of the earth (Isaiah 40:22), is partly designated as bounded and surrounded by the ocean (Proverbs 8:27), so that the orb of the heavens rests upon it (Job 22:14; Job 26:10), partly as having gone forth out of the water (Genesis 1:9) and firmly established (Psalms 136:6; comp. Psalms 104:5 sq.) by Divine Omnipotence upon the unstable and fluctuating waters (Jonah 2:4), so that the source of the great flood (Genesis 7:11) and waters under the earth (Exodus 20:4) are mentioned significantly together with the heavens and earth. The waters, however, are not the foundations which essentially support the earth. Such a foundation is the Omnipotence of God (Job 38:6), who has hung the earth on nothing (Job 26:7); as then the Abyss and the deepest world below, are beneath the waters (Job 26:6). It is accordingly inadmissible to deviate from the usual meaning of àl with words of founding and establishing and to accept here the meaning of by, at (Luther after the Rabbins), or over (Calvin, Geier, Hengst.).

[Str. II. Psa 24:3. Ascend into the hill of Jehovah.—Hupfeld: “This indicates primarily visiting the sanctuary (Temple), but it is borrowed from visiting a human house or tent, as a guest and having the privilege of a guest therein, like Psalms 15:1, ‘dwell in Thy holy hill,’ and ‘be a guest in Thy tent;’ the futures are to be understood here in the same way as there.”—Stand in His holy place.—This is used of the privilege of the guest of God and refers primarily to the privilege of the priests and Levites, and thence in a spiritual sense to the whole people as a nation of priests to the Lord. Both these expressions are used of access to the sanctuary of the holy place of the ark, which might not only be said of Zion but likewise of Shiloh and wherever else the ark of the covenant rested.—C. A. B.]

Str. III. Psa 24:4. [Clean hands, with special reference to touching sacred things and with a probable reference to the unclean hands of Uzzah.—C. A. B.].—Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity.—This clause is parallel to the following one, and expresses the efforts and strivings of the soul, which correspond with the false oaths and internally precede and accompany them. It is unnecessary, therefore, to regard the general expression in this clause, particularly as falsehood (Syr., Chald.), or false doctrine (Luther), or as idolatry in a rough

sense (Seb. Schmidt), or in a nicer sense (Stier), although it designates the vain and frivolous in general, and therefore in a special case might naturally have a more specific reference and meaning.—The Syr. and Chald. at the same time put swear at once in place of lift up; and whilst the latter paraphrases, to the guilt of the soul, the former seems, by its translation “by his soul,” to have thought of the well-known formula of oaths, which, however, was only used by Jehovah (Amos 6:8; Jeremiah 51:14). The Rabbins, with express reference to this and at the same time to the prohibition Exodus 20:7, prefer the reading “my soul,” which is very unusual and has very little support. This would be put instead of “my name,” because God Himself speaks here, or the soul is a paraphrase of the person (Stange).

[Psalms 24:5. Blessing refers to the blessing of Obed Edom and his house.—Righteousness.—Delitzsch: “This is the righteousness of God after which even the righteous, but not the self-righteous, hunger and thirst, that moral perfection which is the restored and realized image of God: transfiguration into the image of the Holy One Himself.”—C. A. B.]

Psalms 24:6. Such (is) the generation of them that seek after Him, that seek Thy face.—Jacob.—[Those who seek after God, who desire to ascend into the hill of Jehovah, stand in His holy place and see His face, are such persons as those just described—they constitute a generation, a race, and that generation bears the historical name of Jacob.—C. A. B.]. Jacob is either the summary of the preceding predicates in the historical definition. Isaiah 44:1-2 (most interpreters at the same time with an emphatic sense), or the vocative God which preceded it has been left off (Flamin., Vogel, Ewald, Olsh., Hupf. [Perowne]), which is the reading of 2 codd., Kennic, Sept. and Pesch. For the translation “In Jacob” (Vatabl., Cleric.) is grammatically inadmissible; and to supply “are,” before Jacob (Hengst. [Alexander]), with the supposition of an independent clause parallel with the former member of the verse and in an explanatory sense, is connected with premises and distinctions that are untenable.

Str. IV. Psa 24:7.25Lift up your heads, ye gates.—Some, not understanding the poetry of the expression (Geier, Cleric, Venema) have referred the “heads” directly to the lintels of the gates;26 others (Flamin.) have referred to the guards of the gates of heaven and its inhabitants, with a Messianic interpretation of the Psalm of the ascension of Christ, whilst the majority emphasize too much the figurative language (Vatabl., Geier, Schmidt, J. H. Mich.), and think of the entrance of God into the heart of men, or indeed (Calv ) expressly reject the reference to the ark of the covenant.—Lift yourselves, ye primeval doors.—Those who think of the temple rather than the citadel of Zion translate, “everlasting doors” [A. V.]. But then it certainly does not mean the firm seat after long wanderings (Kimchi, Rosenm.), but the dwelling of the Eternal (1 Kings 8:13), abiding forever (Psalms 132:14) (Calvin, Hupf., Hitzig). We cannot think of doors in the world (Luther), because ólam gains the meaning of “world” only after the completion of the canon of the Old Testament, but elsewhere refers now backwards to primeval times (Genesis 49:26; Isaiah 58:12), and now forward into eternity.27King of glory.—The ark of the covenant might not only “bear the name of Jehovah” (2 Samuel 6:2) as the throne of God, but likewise be addressed as Jehovah (Numbers 10:35 sq.), and as Jehovah be named the glory (1 Samuel 4:21 sq.), on which account there is likewise ascribed to it the warlike attributes which God has as the chieftain of His people (Numbers 21:4; Psalms 68:0., et al.).

Str. V. Psalms 24:8. These warlike attributes (Exodus 15:3; Isaiah 43:17) are here strongly emphasized without compelling us to think of the bringing back of the ark of the covenant after the conclusion of a successful war (De Wette), or of the contrast between Israel and heathen nations (Hitzig).—[Mighty in battle.—Alexander: “The word translated mighty, although properly an adjective, is constantly used as a noun substantive, and is the nearest equivalent in Hebrew to the classical term hero. But the simple majesty of David’s language would be marred in translation by the use of this word, and still more by that of the combination, martial or military hero, in the other clauses. The idea both in this and other places is borrowed from the Song of Moses, Exodus 15:3, and recalls all those victories which Jehovah had given to His people—the warlike expeditions with the ark during the wanderings in the wilderness, the crossing of the Jordan, the conquest of Jericho, etc., and then last of all Jehovah’s vindication of His ark after it had been abandoned by His people and left to their enemies.”—C. A. B.]

Str. VI. Psalms 24:10. Who is he then, the King of glory?—The question already in Psalms 24:8 was strengthened by זֶה, which here, as Psalms 25:12, et al., is to be taken adverbially. Now when repeated here it is strengthened still more by the insertion of the pronoun הוּא, which points back to the reference already mentioned and strongly emphasized the subject.—Jehovah Sabaoth [A. V., Lord of hosts].—The choice of this name of God (an abbreviated form of Jehovah Elohe Sabaoth, Amos 3:13, et al.), which had become usual during the period of the kings, is without doubt connected with the use of warlike attributes in the preceding verses, but likewise, without doubt, not only=God of war (Köster), or God of the battle array of Israel (1 Samuel 17:45; comp. Numbers 21:4; Joshua 4:9), although the form Sabaoth used alone, Numbers 1:3; Numbers 1:52; Deuteronomy 20:9; 1Ki 2:5; 1 Chronicles 27:3, always means real hosts; but with respect to the beginning of the Psalm alludes to the comprehensive sense, which the Sept. renders by παντοκράτωρ. The justification of this rendering is found in Genesis 2:1, and in the general meaning of Saba=agmen; comp. Jeremiah 3:19. It is not allowable to limit the expression to the “hosts of heaven,” which comprehend partly that host mustered by Jehovah (Isaiah 40:26), the hosts of stars (Jeremiah 33:22; Psalms 147:4), partly the hosts or angels, which in ranks (Joshua 5:14) surround the throne of God (1 Kings 22:19; Psalms 103:21; Psalms 148:2). For in all these cases either the singular is used or, as Psalms 103:21, the plural masculine. [Delitzsch: “The gates now become silent and open themselves and Jehovah enters Zion, throned above the cherubim of the holy ark.”—C. A. B.]28


1. The God of Israel is not merely a God of the family, tribe and nation, but He is rather the Lord and Creator of the entire world; and He would not have this obscured or suppressed, after He has entered into a special relation with Israel by gracious condescension in behalf of the historical execution of His eternal counsels of salvation and thoughts of peace; but He would have it recognized and praised. A writer of the Talmud derives from Psalms 24:1 the duty of asking the blessing at the table, and Basil answered the Emperor Valens with it when threatened with banishment.

2. The members of His covenant people are to keep constantly before their eyes and take to heart not only His power and exaltation above all creatures, but His holiness as the true majesty and glory of His morally perfect nature. For from the beginning of the world there have been those “who served God without heart, without grace, without spirit, and merely with external works, ordinances, offerings and ceremonies and the like. As Cain offered to God his gifts, yet withheld his heart and his person” (Luther).

3. He who would truly draw near to the holy God, truly have communion with Him, remain constantly near Him and receive and retain the blessings of this covenant must not be as the hypocrite and as “proud saints,” but “he alone is such who has this one thing in himself, that he is pure internally and externally” (Luther). We should be reminded of this by every walk to the house of God, every Divine service, every use of the means of grace, and especially by that feast which announces and celebrates the coming of the Lord. For God would not only be among us, but would dwell in us, and walk in us, and as our God have His law in our hearts (Jeremiah 24:7; Jeremiah 31:33).

4. The institutions and means of salvation of this covenant which are provided with especial power and fulness of blessing serve to give us this loving view of the Almighty and Holy God. But they do not work salvation in every one without exception that engages in them, but are in an internal and essential relation to the moral nature of those who use them, as well as the holy nature of Him who has instituted them; and they work miracles, it is true, in accordance with this, but not as magical means, or by the mere use, but as means of grace according to the order of salvation.

5. We must distinguish the righteousness which as a gift of God accomplishes the transformation of the man, who has been taken into favor, into the likeness of God, and his renewal and transfiguration into the image of God, and which presupposes sanctification, from that righteousness which is imputed by the judgment of God as the justification of the sinner and precedes sanctification. The true posterity of Jacob consist of such men (Isaiah 44:2).

6. The opening, elevation and widening of the gates of entrance correspond with the glory of the Almighty Ruler who enters in, upon whose command an innumerable host attend. The application of this to the spiritual life, demanding that all hindrances, limitations and restraints should be removed, is to render easy the reception of the Lord by referring to the fact that against such a Lord, who has long since shown Himself to be a strong and victorious hero, every resistance is as foolish as it is vain, whilst the worthy reception of Him is at the same time both fitting and salutary. “The honorary titles, by which the Psalmist here extols God’s power, have the design of showing to the covenant people that God does not sit idly in His temple, but is ready to help His people and to stretch out His strong hand to defend their salvation” (Calvin).—“He names the doors everlasting, because the human heart is immortal and will always be a door into which God may enter” (Luther).


The glory of God: 1) as the Almighty Creator of all things; 2) as the victorious Lord of the world; 3) as the holy and helping King of His covenant people.—The condescension of God to His people is as great as His exaltation above all the world.—When God the Lord would have His entrance, He announces His coming and demands open doors.—God has His people on earth and among them the institutions of salvation and the means of His grace; but He likewise sees to it, how His people is constituted, how His institutions are used, how His means are employed.—God requires of those who desire to commune with Him threefold purity: 1) of hand (of works); 2) of heart (thoughts); 3) of mouth (words).—It is fruitless to visit the house of God, unless we take away with us the blessing of God and obtain the gift of righteousness from the God of salvation.—Because all things belong to God the Lord as His work, we ought to consecrate them to Him as His property and sanctify ourselves particularly as His people.—In the service of God we have protection against all enemies and power of victory over the entire world.—He who inquires after God and seeks His countenance, will experience to His salvation that God is already on the way to visit him.—It is more difficult to remain before the face of God than to come before Him; but it is a characteristic of the truly pious that they seek both.

Starke: If God does not let the little lump of earth sink in the abyss of the sea and be swallowed up in the great waters, He surely will be able to preserve His Church amidst all the storms and waves of the kingdom of darkness.—Many men inquire after the way to heaven; but they do not like to tread it or to travel it.—There is always a difference between the world and the Church in the world, between God’s places and the devil’s places, and that difference is diligence in sanctification.—Examine yourself whether you are a subject of the King of glory; the mere outer confession does not suffice; that must be accompanied by indubitable marks of faith.—The surest mark of the true Church is the disposition of Jacob, struggling and striving for the blessing and righteousness from the God of our salvation.—He who takes a great deal with him, cannot enter in through a narrow gate; Christ comes to us with many heavenly blessings, therefore the doors must be made wide and opened for His entrance.—Calvin: Since God’s house is holy, the desecration and abuse of those who unrighteously press into it, are nothing but a violation of it.—Osiander: The earth is the Lord’s; He can provide for us and sustain us wherever we may be.—Frisch: All your burden of care is nothing when compared with the globe, and yet your Almighty God sustains that. All your troubles are nothing when compared with the waves of the stormy sea, and yet the Lord has set bounds even to them.—Herberger: The earth is the Lord’s; therefore it is good everywhere on earth: 1) to dwell, 2) to pray, and 3) to die.—Shut to the devil, open to Christ, so will the King of glory enter into you—Tholuck: We should regard our worship of God not so much as a duty, but rather as a grace bestowed upon us.—It is the warlike God, who has gained the victories which are in the remembrance of all.—Von Gerlach: When the Lord would make an entrance and take up His abode, the entire world is too small; His advent transforms it.

[Matth. Henry: When God gave the earth to the children of men, He still reserved to Himself the property, and only let it out to them as tenants.—All the parts and regions of the earth are the Lord’s, all under His eye, all in His hand, so that wherever a child of God goes he may comfort himself with this, that he doth not go off his Father’s ground.—This is a good reason why we should be content with our allotment in this world, and not envy others their’s; “the earth is the Lord’s,” and may He not do what He will with His own, and give to some more of it, to others less, as it pleaseth Him?—Barnes: God will not regard one who is living in wickedness as a righteous man, nor will He admit such a man to His favor here, or to His dwelling-place hereafter.—Spurgeon: Providence and Creation are the two legal seals upon the title deeds of the great Owner of all things. He who built the house and bears up its foundation has surely a first claim upon it.—What monarch would have servants with filthy hands to wait at his table? They who were ceremonially unclean could not enter into the Lord’s house which was made with hands, much less shall the morally defiled be allowed to enjoy spiritual fellowship with a holy God.—True religion is heart work.—There must be a work of grace in the core of the heart as well as in the palm of the hand, or our religion is a delusion.—False speaking will shut any man out of heaven, for a liar shall not enter into God’s house, whatever may be his professions or doings. God will have nothing to do with liars, except to cast them into the lake of fire. Every liar is a child of the devil, and will be sent home to his father.—God first gives us good works and then rewards us for them.—To desire communion with God is a purifying thing.—All true glory is concentrated upon the true God, for all other glory is but a passing pageant, the painted pomp of an hour.—C. A. B.]


[24][The two parts of this Psalm are sharply divided, but this does not justify Ewald in regarding them as different Psalms. Delitzsch is more correct in regarding the first part as sung at the foot of the mountain and the other part above at the citadel, but it seems better to regard the first part of the Psalm as composed for and sung when the festival procession halted before the house of Obed Edom, and the second part at their appearance before the gates of Zion. The first part expresses the feelings of David and the people in the presence of that holy ark which had chastised the rebellious Israelite, vindicated its sanctity among the Philistines, smitten the men of Beth Shemesh (1 Samuel 6:19 sq.), and the unwary Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:6). Psalms 24:1-2 is a general chorus of praise of the God of the whole earth. Psalms 24:3 is the inquiry, perhaps of a single voice, who shall approach this holy ark? The place and the hill where it rested was, for the time being, the holy place and the holy hill. Zion could not be this, as Ewald contends, until the ark had been established there. Psalms 24:4-5 give the response, perhaps likewise by a single voice: He that hath clean hands alone dare touch the ark; he that is pure in heart, alone may enter into that sacred place; he alone will receive the blessing of Obed Edem and his house. Comp. the words of the men of Beth Shemesh: “Who is able to stand before the holy Lord God?” (1 Samuel 6:20), of David, “How shall the ark of the Lord come to me?” (2 Samuel 6:9). Psalms 24:6 is the voice of the general chorus. This is a generation seeking Jehovah’s face, it is Jacob. The second part was sung at the gates of Zion. Psalms 24:7 is a general chorus of the triumphal procession, calling upon the city to open its gates to Jehovah. Psalms 24:8 is the question of a single voice upon the walls: Who is this King of glory? Psalms 24:9 is the response of a single voice, reciting the characteristics of this King of glory. In Psalms 24:10 the general chorus takes up the question with emphasis and replies with a triumphal strain, closing the Psalm.—C. A. B.]

[25][Ewald: “A new king is about to enter the ancient and venerable city, and indeed the highest and mightiest conceivable, Jehovah Himself, enthroned upon the Ark of the Covenant. Such a King has never entered this city, and the grey gates, although venerable with age, are too small and mean for Him (for the height of the gates must correspond with the dignity of the Lord who enters them, so that at times gates of extraordinary size were built, comp. Proverbs 17:19; Journ. as., 1856, II., p. 479; Munzinger’s Ostafrikanische Studien, p. 328, 5 sq.). Those who accompany the new King call to them from a distance to lift up themselves and become young again.’—C. A. B.]

[26][Thomson’s Land and the Book, p. 244, refers to the ancient manner of lifting up the gates instead of opening them, as at present.—C. A. B.]

[27][Delitzsch: “The cry, ‘lift up your heads, ye gates,’ has essentially the same meaning as the voice of the cry in Isaiah 40:3 : ‘prepare the way of Jehovah, level in the wilderness a highway for our God.’ ”—C. A. B.]

[28][Wordsworth: “When David uttered these words with prophetic inspiration, and when he beheld the Ark of the Lord’s presence going up, and passing through the gates of the hill of Zion to the Sanctuary prepared for it; when he saw that same Ark going up thither, which had led the people of Israel to victory from Mount Sinai through the wilderness, and across the river Jordan, whose waters fled at its presence, and had brought them into Canaan; and at the power of which, when it had compassed the city seven days, the walls of Jericho fell down, and before which the gods of Philistia fell prostrate on the ground—when David meditated on this triumphal progress of the Ark of God, a march continued for more than four centuries, from Sinai to Sion—surely, he may be supposed to have been transported by the Spirit in a heavenly rapture, and to have beheld the glorious consummation which was foreshadowed by all these triumphs; namely, the victory of the Lord Christ, whom he salutes as Lord of Host, over all the power of Satan, and His triumphal ascent into His capital city, the heavenly city, and the exaltation of the Ark of His Church, in which His presence and power dwell.”—C. A. B.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 24". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/psalms-24.html. 1857-84.
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