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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 60

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

Verses 1-12

Psalms 60:0

To the chief Musician upon Shushan-eduth, Michtam of David, to teach; when he strove with Aram naharaim and with Aram-zobah, when Joab returned, and smote of Edom in the valley of salt twelve thousand

1          O God, thou hast cast us off, thou hast scattered us,

Thou hast been displeased; O turn thyself to us again.

2     Thou hast made the earth to tremble; thou hast broken it:

Heal the breaches thereof; for it shaketh.

3     Thou hast showed thy people hard things:

Thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment.

4     Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee,

That it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah.

5     That thy beloved may be delivered;

Save with thy right hand, and hear me.

6     God hath spoken in his holiness;

I will rejoice, I will divide Shechem,
And mete out the valley of Succoth.

7     Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine;

Ephraim also is the strength of mine head;

Judah is my lawgiver;

8     Moab is my washpot;

Over Edom will I cast out my shoe:
Philistia, triumph thou because of me.

9     Who will bring me into the strong city?

Who will lead me into Edom?

10     Wilt not thou, O God, which hadst cast us off?

And thou, O God, which didst not go out with our armies?

11     Give us help from trouble:

For vain is the help of man.

12     Through God we shall do valiantly:

For he it is that shall tread down our enemies.


Its Contents and Composition.—For the first part of the Title comp. Intro., § 12, No. 13, § 8, No. 4. The second part refers us to the time of the wars of David with the Ammonites and their Aramaic confederates, repeated and carried on with variable success. Among these was the war with the king of Zoba, who, according to 2 Samuel 10:16, extended his rule across the Euphrates, but seems to have had his capital between the Orontes and the Euphrates northeast of Damascus. When now here the Aram of both streams, that is to say, Mesopotamia, is mentioned together with Aram Zoba and Edom, whilst 2 Samuel 8:0, besides these last two, mentions Damascus, there is no actual contradiction but differences in relation which may be used with great justice in favor as well as against the authenticity of the title and its derivation from an older and more complete historical source, especially as here the overthrow of Edom in the vale of Salt which is destitute of vegetation, and is about ten miles wide at the southern extremity of the dead sea (Robin. Bib. Researches, II., 109), is referred back to Joab, David’s general, whilst 2 Samuel 8:0 refers to David himself, and 1 Chronicles 18:12 to Abishai, the brother of Joab, 2 Samuel 10:10. Instead of the number 12,000 slain mentioned here, these two passages have 18,000.4 The composition of the Psalm has been placed more correctly in the time before the battle in the valley of salt (Delitzsch), than afterwards (Hengst.), because it is necessary to suppose that the Edomites had fallen upon the land, laying it waste from the south when David had marched against his powerful enemies in the North and victoriously forced them back, but sent off his general Joab against the Edomites. To this laying waste the land, the lamentation which begins the Psalm refers (Psalms 60:1-3). There is then a reference to Divine incitement (Psalms 60:4) which introduces the prayer for Divine help (Psalms 60:5), which passes over into the appropriation of a Divine oracle promising victory (Psalms 60:6-8). Upon this is based the renewed petition, intensified by its inconsistency with the present situation (Psalms 60:9-10) into pressing supplication for Divine assistance (Psalms 60:11-12). Psalms 44:0 of the sons of Korah, in which Psalms 60:9 corresponds with Psalms 60:10 of this Psalm, would then have been composed subsequently to this Psalm of David. The latter part of our Psalm from Psalms 60:5 is repeated in not so good a form in Psalms 108:0 This relation is not favorable to the many hypotheses differing exceedingly from one another, which refer this Psalm to events of the Maccabean times (Rudinger, Hesse, Olsh., Hitzig), or to the times after the exile (Ewald, Köster, Maurer). Even the supposition that the promise in the oracle of God expresses the idea of the restoration of the unity of the empire which is usual in the prophets, which presupposes the division and the experience of its sad consequence (Hupfeld), cannot be established by the contents or the expressions of this oracle. As for the expression “to teach,” there is nothing to decide whether it designates the Psalm as designed for the instruction of posterity (most interpreters), or whether it refers particularly to the design of bringing the unmanageable tribes to recognize the Divine choice of David by teaching them that his government was pleasing to God (Calvin), or whether it states directly its purpose of being committed to memory by the people on account of its national significance as Deuteronomy 31:19 (Hengst.), or whether it is to be explained by 2 Samuel 1:18, and accordingly is to be regarded as a song of military exercise, which was to be sung in connection with shooting with the bow (Delitzsch).

Str. I., Ver 1. Hast broken us.—This Hebrew word is used by David, 2 Samuel 5:20, as a suitable term for the overthrow of the Philistines in the sense of breaking through, as frequently elsewhere, e. g. Psalms 80:12; Psalms 89:40, of breaking through a wall and figuratively, e.g. Psalms 106:29; Exodus 19:22, of the crushing blows of God. We are not then obliged to think here of the tearing asunder of the tribes of Israel, as Judges 21:15.—Give us restoration again.—[Thus Moll, who finds the object in the verb תְּשׁוֹבֵב, denoting to give restoration or refreshment. Hupfeld would supply the object from the preceding verb, ‘appease Thine anger towards us.’ He refers to the phrase השׁיבאךָ let go, and appease anger, and to Isaiah 12:1. With לָנוּ, the dat. comm., it is thus equivalent to: be gracious to us again, turn to us Thy grace again. Others find the object understood in favor: restore to us (Thy favor or salvation). Perowne, following Ewald, translates: restore us again, comp. Isaiah 58:12.—C. A. B.]

Psalms 60:2. The figures of this verse are derived from the earthquake shaking the whole land and making rents in it as breaches in a tottering building (Isaiah 30:13, &c.).

Psalms 60:3. Wine to intoxication.—This is literally wine, which is intoxication. It is the gift of God from the cup of wrath (Isaiah 51:17 sq.), from the hand of God (Psalms 75:9). It is a figure, not of the total passionateness, folly and infatuation of the brotherly hatred raging in their bowels which has plunged the people into ruin as a punishment (Hupf.), but of the condition at once of internal confusion of spirit (Geier, et al.) and of helpless bodily weakness (Hengst.), Isaiah 19:14; Job 12:25, of the senseless condition in which man is unable to advise or help himself, and is in danger of falling (Hitzig), and indeed under the point of view of a Divine punishment.

Psalms 60:4. To be lifted up because of truth.—This verse makes the transition from lamentation to prayer, even if the last member of the verse should be translated: flee before the bow (the ancient versions, Ewald, Hitzig, Hupfeld). This likewise allows the reference to a Divine benefit, rendering the deliverance of the people possible. It is more appropriate to derive the reflexive התּנוסס (not to speak of. the doubtful passage, Zechariah 9:16), here, on account of its connection with גֵס from the same root. נָסס= to lift up (Numbers 21:8) rather than from נוּס=to flee, especially as קשׁט in the meaning: truth is established by Proverbs 22:21 (Chald.). On the other hand, the supposition that we are here to read קשת=bow, or that instead of this word, there is here an incorrect Aramaic spelling, is somewhat arbitrary. The interpretation that מִפְּנֵי=with respect to, with regard to (Baur), to designate the occasion and the motive=because of, is established by passages like Deuteronomy 28:20; Nehemiah 5:15 (Delitzsch). In this state of the case, the “truth” is not the true religion or the righteousness of the cause (De Wette), for which God has given the signal to arise in war (Hitzig, Roster, Maurer), but the truth and trustworthiness of the banner which is according to the context, the promise which God has spoken in His holiness.

Str. II., Psalms 60:6 sq. Has spoken in His holiness—This is not in His sanctuary, or: swearing by His holiness, Psalms 89:36; Amos 4:2. It is most appropriate to understand this promise, which refers to the duration of the possession of the promised land and the supremacy over neighboring nations, not of a special oracle given through the Urim and Thummim of the high-priest, or the answer just sought (J. D. Mich., Köster), nor to limit it to the promise given to David, 2 Samuel 7:9 sq., and as a figurative reproduction of the same (Delitzsch), but to regard it as a free summary of the ancient (Hengst.) prophecies, especially those contained in the Pentateuch (Hengst.). For the contents and form of the following words are opposed to the supposition of a direct address of God. The subject of the following predicates can only be either personified Israel (De Wette, et al.) or their king. If we more naturally think of the latter, there is no reason at all for the supposition, that God speaks in His character as ruler and in poetic anthropomorphic forms (Köster, Olsh., Hupfeld, Hitzig). For if David has appropriated these promises to himself as king and at the same time speaks as the author of this Psalm in the first person, all objections are removed such as arise from the absence of a conjunction which would indicate a consequence of the divine oracle.—At first ancient or renowned places (Olsh.) are mentioned, which appear significantly in the history of Jacob (Hengst.), Shechem on the west of the Jordan (Joshua 13:27), the valley of Succoth on the east of the Jordan (Genesis 33:17; Judges 8:4), not far from the Jabbok in the tribe of Gad, which latter, together with the tribe of Reuben, comprehended the here mentioned Gilead and Manasseh (Psalms 60:7). Then the two chief tribes Ephraim and Judah are mentioned together with closer designation as the helmet and the sceptre (Genesis 49:10; Numbers 21:28).

Finally three hostile, renowned and dangerous neighboring nations come into consideration (Psalms 60:8). Moab is said not, as it were, to follow the king as a servant with the wash-basin, but as to be used by him as such, in order to wash his face white, that is, to gain for himself glory and renown by victory over him. Edom is designated as entirely humbled and disgraced by the figure of a shameful contact with the shoe. Philistia is described as conquered by the mention, not as it were of a shout of joy in homage (De Wette, Hengst., Hitzig), but either of the cry of murder, Isaiah 15:4 (Delitzsch), of wailing outcry (Ewald), or of the cry of the warrior upon the battle-field and of vengeance. For the previous, for the most part false, interpretations of the symbol of the wash-basin and shoe, see the Excursus of J. G. Wetzstein in Delitzsch Comm.

Str. III., Psalms 60:9. Strong city.—This is distinguished by the parallel member of the verse as the capital of the Idumeans (2 Kings 14:7), namely סֶלַע that is to say, rock, thus the renowned Petra, comp. Genesis 36:42; Jeremiah 49:16; Obadiah 1:3; Psalms 108:10.

Psalms 60:10. Hast not Thou, O God, cast us off? and marchedst not out, O God, in our armies?—This is not an answer to the preceding question: Art Thou not the one who (most interpreters), but must be regarded as a lamentation on account of the absence of the relative and the parallels in Psalms 60:1 and Psalms 44:10, which then is presupposed and constitutes the foundation of the following prayer (Hupfeld, Delitzsch).

[Psalms 60:11. Afford us deliverance from the adversary.—The prayer follows the lamentation seeking help in God. Israel implores deliverance from above, and receives it. Delitzsch: “Israel conquers in God, and God, who is in Israel, will deservedly trample Edom under foot through Israel.”—C. A. B.]


1. There are sad times to the congregation of God in the world, in which they are obliged to experience hard, yes terrible things, since they not only are surrounded on all sides by enemies, which are greedy to spy out their nakedness and select for falling upon them the hour in which they feel themselves shattered, tired and weakened by previous struggles, but they likewise must confess that in all this they yet only receive and experience what God gives and does.

2. But if it really happens that the congregation bows under the hand of God when He humiliates and chastises them, it then gains again directly on the one side the comforting remembrance of God’s grace previously shown to them in many times and in many ways, whereby it has been placed in a peculiar relation to Him, and has gained a special position in the world, on the other side the refreshing confidence of new manifestations of grace in order that they may assert this position and carry out the tasks imposed upon them.

3. This remembrance, as well as this confidence, grows up in the heart only from faith in the truth of that which God in His holiness has spoken, and the congregation directs itself to the proclamation of the Divine promises in its. sufferings, and rises again from its defeats. It learns to look to the right hand of God and the banner lifted up and sustained by it, and it fights for the cause in which it suffers, with the glad courage of the certainty of victory through that assistance of God which renders all human help of no avail and all human hostility without danger to those who fear God and are likewise the beloved of God, and have been lifted above the present misfortunes by the fact that they have been driven by them to greater depths of faith and prayer.


Wars are for nations what earthquakes are for their lands; God sometimes visits men with both, and then likewise strikes the congregation with hard blows and shakes them; but He heals again the breaches and rents which arise thereby.—He who fears God is loved by God; he who trusts God will be helped by God.—It. is not necessary that God should march out with armies in order that He may conquer the whole world.—Earthly success is fleeting, human help vain, trust in God alone is right.—God may strike hard and painfully even by human hands; but He heals again with His hand those among them who humble themselves.—There is but one banner upon which victory is always perched; what follows from this with reference to our actions?—He who relies upon the truth of God’s word and upon the power of God’s hand will not lose hope.—The beaten not only find refuge with God, but likewise the healing of their wounds, power for new conflicts, and assistance for final victory.—In God the fallen rise up, and in God the weak become strong; yet faith in the truth of His word is requisite. Whither are you driven by your every misfortune? to God and His word? to penitence, to faith, to prayer? or whither else?

Calvin: When God lifts us on high by His bounties, He must yet always be sought in prayer modestly and humbly that He may carry on His work.

Starke: Men do not truly understand the good things which God bestows upon them until they are deprived of them.—The vile drink of security is followed by the intoxicating cup of wrath and the punishments of God with all certainty; therefore flee from the former if you would not taste the latter.—God gives the victory and divides the lands to whom He will.—That is a fine campaign when God gives commands and He is the general.—The best advice in all our affairs is to lay them plainly before God and crave His assistance without, prescribing to Him the kind and manner of help.

Renschel: God chastises us on account of our sins, that we may not be condemned with the world.—Guenther: Lord, preserve us from Thy fiery wrath in war! But if it must flame up, give us warriors which can pray and Thy banner to those who fear Thee.—Diedrich: If only we are the true confessors, we must obtain the victory, although it may be through many humiliations.

[Matt. Henry: “Whatever our trouble is, and whoever are the instruments of it, we must own the hand of God, His righteous-hand, in it.—Our calamities serve as foils to our joys.—A lively faith in the promise will assure us, not only that the God of peace shall shortly tread Satan under our feet, but that it is our Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.—Words-worth: Christ has given to His soldiers a banner—the banner of the Cross; and at their baptism they are pledged to fight valiantly under it against sin, the world, and the devil.—Perowne: When men will drink presumptuously of the cup of their wickedness, God forces it, as it were, into their hands, till they have drained the very dregs as the cup of His wrath.—Spurgeon: The bravest men are usually entrusted with the banner, and it is certain that those who fear God most have less fear of man than any others.—To publish the gospel is a sacred duty; to be ashamed of it a deadly sin.—Faith divides the spoil; she is sure of what God has promised, and enters at once into possession.—From God all power proceeds, and all we do well is done by Divine operation; but still we, as soldiers of the great King, are to fight, and to fight valiantly too.—C. A. B.]


[4][Mich. justly remarks: “David as king, Joab as commander-in-chief, Abishai as sent by his brother on this particular expedition, defeated the enemy.” The discrepancy in numbers may have arisen from a mistake of the copyist, or rather is due to the fact, that there is here a reference to a single engagement, whilst the history perhaps states the losses of the campaign.—C. A. B.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 60". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/psalms-60.html. 1857-84.
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