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Bible Commentaries

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

Psalms 89

Verses 1-52

Psalms 89:0

Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite

2          I will sing of the mercies of the Lord for ever:

With my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.

3     For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever:

Thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens.

4     I have made a covenant with my chosen,

I have sworn unto David my servant,

5     Thy seed will I establish for ever,

And build up thy throne to all generations. Selah.

6     And the heavens shall praise thy wonders, O Lord:

Thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints.

7     For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord?

Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?

8     God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints,

And to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.

9     O Lord God of hosts, who is a strong Lord like unto thee?

Or to thy faithfulness round about thee?

10     Thou rulest the raging of the sea:

When the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them.

11     Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces, as one that is slain;

Thou hast scattered thine enemies with thy strong arm.

12     The heavens are thine, the earth also is thine:

As for the world and the fulness thereof, thou hast founded them

13     The north and the south thou hast created them:

Tabor and Hermon shall rejoice in thy name.

14     Thou hast a mighty arm:

Strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand.

15     Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne:

Mercy and truth shall go before thy face.

16     Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound:

They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance.

17     In thy name shall they rejoice all the day:

And in thy righteousness shall they be exalted.

18     For thou art the glory of their strength:

And in thy favour our horn shall be exalted.

19     For the Lord is our defence:

And the Holy One of Israel is our King.

20     Then thou spakest in vision to thy Holy One,

And saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty;

I have exalted one chosen out of the people.

21     I have found David my servant;

With my holy oil have I anointed him:

22     With whom my hand shall be established:

Mine arm also shall strengthen him.

23     The enemy shall not exact upon him;

Nor the son of wickedness afflict him.

24     And I will beat down his foes before his face,

And plague them that hate him.

25     But my faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him:

And in my name shall his horn be exalted.

26     I will set his hand also in the sea,

And his right hand in the rivers.

27     He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father,

My God, and the Rock of my salvation.

28     Also I will make him my firstborn,

Higher than the kings of the earth.

29     My mercy will I keep for him for evermore,

And my covenant shall stand fast with him.

30     His seed also will I make to endure for ever,

And his throne as the days of heaven.

31     If his children forsake my law,

And walk not in my judgments;

32     If they break my statutes,

And keep not my commandments;

33     Then will I visit their transgression with the rod,

And their iniquity with stripes.

34     Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him,

Nor suffer my faithfulness to fail.

35     My covenant will I not break,

Nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips.

36     Once have I sworn by my holiness

That I will not lie unto David.

37     His seed shall endure for ever,

And his throne as the sun before me.

38     It shall be established for ever as the moon,

And as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.

39     But thou hast cast off and abhorred,

Thou hast been wroth with thine anointed.

40     Thou hast made void the covenant of thy servant:

Thou hast profaned his crown by casting it to the ground.

41     Thou hast broken down all his hedges;

Thou hast brought his strong holds to ruin.

42     All that pass by the way spoil him:

He is a reproach to his neighbours.

43     Thou hast set up the right hand of his adversaries,

Thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice.

44     Thou hast also turned the edge of his sword,

And hast not made him to stand in the battle.

45     Thou hast made his glory to cease,

And cast his throne down to the ground.

46     The days of his youth hast thou shortened:

Thou hast covered him with shame. Selah.

47     How long, Lord? wilt thou hide thyself for ever?

Shall thy wrath burn like fire?

48     Remember how short my time is:

Wherefore hast thou made all men m vain?

49     What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death?

Shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave? Selah.

50     Lord, where are thy former lovingkindnesses,

Which thou swarest unto David in thy truth?

51     Remember, Lord, the reproach of thy servants;

How I do bear in my bosom the reproach of all the mighty people;

52     Wherewith thine enemies have reproached, O Lord;

Wherewith they have reproached the footsteps of thine anointed.

53     Blessed be the Lord for evermore.

Amen, and Amen.


Contents and Composition. On the superscription see Introd. § 8, No. 3 and No. 2. The Psalmist begins (Psalms 89:2-3) with the assurance that he will never cease to praise the mercy of Jehovah which had been promised inviolably to David and his house, (Isaiah 55:3),and at the same time (Psalms 89:4-5) gives the essential contents of the promise after 2 Samuel 7:8 ff. He then shows the ground of his assurance and purpose (Psalms 89:6-19) in a description of the exaltation of this God of promise, who is praised in heaven and on earth for the manifestations of His power and goodness, righteousness and faithfulness, by which He has glorified Himself as the God and Protector of the people and of their king. This is followed by a lyrical unfolding of the fulfilment of the promise (Psalms 89:20-38). The situation of the reigning king, standing in such contrast to the promise, is next depicted (Psalms 89:38-46) by the Psalmist. He then asks (Psalms 89:47-49), how long this outpouring of God’s wrath, which none could escape by their own strength, was to continue; and finally (Psalms 89:50-52) he offers the prayer that this contrast between the promise and the actual condition of affairs would cease to exist. In Psalm 89:53 is sung the closing doxology of the Third Book.

The speaker is not David (Clauss), but one who lived later and who here treats Messianically the promise given to David (comp. on Psalms 2:0) He writes at a time when the position of David’s descendants corresponded but little to that promise, but when the reigning monarch was still of that house, and for him he prays that he may be raised up from his prostration. For the “anointed” (Psalms 89:39) is not the people, but the king, and he is dependent upon God as the Holy One of Israel, and belongs to Him (Psalms 89:19). The interpretation which assumes that the king is this holy one of Israel, and that the people bear the name of anointed, is a consequence of the assumption that the Psalm belongs to the Maccabean period. (Hitzig). For this there is no ground. Nor is there any indication given which would lead us to connect it with the closing years of the Persian rule (Ewald). The same is true of the defeat of Josiah, 2 Chronicles 35:20 (Venema): for the death of the king is not mentioned here. We have no occasion to adopt in general (Hupfeld) the times shortly preceding the Babylonian Exile (De Wette, Hengst.) or during it (Syr., Grotius). The occasion of the composition was most probably the defeat of Rehoboam 1 Kings 14:25 ff. 2 Chronicles 12:1 ff. (Calvin, Delitzsch) by Shishak, that is, Sheshonk I, (comp. Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenländ. Gessellschaft, Vol. Psalms 15:0 : p. 233 ff.). From this is perhaps to be explained the prominence given here to Egypt under the name Rahab (see on Psalms 87:0) in allusion to the former overthrow of this presumptuous and defiant enemy by the judgment of God. At that time the Ezrahite Ethan could have been still living. [The view of those who suppose that this Psalm forms with the preceding a double-psalm has been given in the introduction to the latter. Perowne, following a conjecture of Tholuck, thinks it not improbable that the king of whom the Psalm speaks was Jehoiachin, who after a reign of three months was deposed by Nebuchadnezzar, and of whom it was said that no king should “prosper, sitting on the throne of David.” He thinks at all events that there is little doubt that it was written in the latter days of the Jewish monarchy. Of course the superscription is completely ignored, as that commentator does not even think with Hengstenberg that the name was attached for the sake of giving greater authority and weight to the composition. Alexander, while adhering to Hengstenberg’s hypothesis of a double psalm, differs from him entirely as to the time of composition and thinks it most probable that both parts were composed almost contemporaneously with the promise recorded in the latter one—and were “intended to anticipate misgivings and repinings, which, though they existed even then in the germ, were not developed until the period of decline approached its catastrophe.” The opinion favored by Dr. Moll above is also that of Wordsworth. It was, as he remarks, defended by Dr. Water-land (see his Scripture Vindicated, p. 204). It is in every way the most probable view. To it we are led by the superscription, from which there is no reason to depart. Only it is not necessary to assume that the Ethan here (1 Kings 5:11; 1 Chronicles 11:6) is the same as the Ethan or Jeduthun (1 Chronicles 15:17), who was of the tribe of Levi and a Merarite. That his name heads a Korahite psalm need occasion no difficulty. See the addition to the introduction to Psalms 88:0.—The remark of Wordsworth is hardly just that this psalm is the Allegro to the Penseroso of the preceding, for here also the tone of melancholy, though not unmixed, still predominates.—J. F. M.]

This psalm, which may be applied to the history of the afflicted servants of God in different ages of the Church, is often transferred from this use to an interpretation with special reference prophetically to the suffering Messiah (the ancients), or to the miseries of the Jews since the prevalence of Christianity (the Rabbins) or to the afflictia ecclesia (Calvin) the mystical Christ, inasmuch as He lives and suffers in His followers (Stier). [Alexander: “The particular promise insisted on here, is that in 2 Samuel 7:0, which constitutes the basis of all the Messianic Psalms.” The application to the life of Christ has been carried to extreme lengths, not only by older English commentators, but by Wordsworth and others among the more recent. Connecting with the last verse of Psalms 87:0 Wordsworth says: “All the springs of life, hope and joy to the Church are in the incarnation of Christ, of the seed of David and in the Divine promise of a perpetual and universal dominion to Him.” The psalm has a Messianic application, only in so far as it was intended to set forth the necessary conflict which was to be waged before the great fundamental promise could be realized. The struggle was most intense when Christ Himself was the King of the promise.—J. F. M.].

Psalms 89:2-4. I will sing of the mercies of the Lord forever. According to the accentuation, עוֹלָם is to be construed with the verb. It is therefore not said that the mercies of Jehovah are eternal, but the Psalmist announces his determination never to cease praising them. The meaning of ôlam is, at all events, not the modern abstract idea of the negation of time, nor the concrete Christian idea of eternity, but that of a period of time unknown and therefore indefinite, and of the course of human affairs within that period. This idea has been transferred by the Rabbins to the idea of the world itself, but in Biblical Hebrew it occurs only in the original sense. [From this use many false translations have occurred in the Septuagint, some of which have found their way into modern versions. The only passage on which there can be any doubt is Ecclesiastes 3:11, where E.V. renders “world.” But there, also, there is no necessity of departing from the Old Testament meaning. On this word see the note of Dr. Lewis in Zöckler’s Commentary in the Bible-Work.—J. F. M.]. It is to be decided by the connection whether the view is directed backwards into primitive or older times, or forwards into the future, whose end cannot be seen, and which runs out into eternity. The Psalmist, however, does not say that he will sing praises for all coming time or for eternity, but only, always. The assertion, therefore, that this expression is not suitable in the mouth of an individual, except as speaking for the Church in the assurance of her endless duration (Hengstenberg) is utterly groundless. It is only in the following stich that the singer says he will make known with his mouth, loudly and publicly, for coming generations, the faithfulness of God. By comparing Psalms 89:3 with Psalms 89:5 it is plain that ו need not be supplied with ôlam in the previous stich. For the former verse does not mean that mercy is established forever (most of the ancients), as an indestructible building, but that it is ever being built up, (J. H. Michaelis and most of the recent expositors), that it does not stand still, nor come to a stop, nor fall in ruins, but rather continues, upon a foundation which is not laid upon anything earthly, temporal, or transitory, but in heaven, that is, upon the foundation of the promises of mercy which have their support in the credibility, the truth and faithfulness of God (Psalms 119:89).—The declaration of God, introduced unexpectedly in Psalms 89:4, is taken not merely in substance, but also literally in many expressions, from the prophecy in 2 Samuel 7:5 f. The words covenant and swear, however, which so frequently recur in the psalm in connection with the faithfulness of God, are not found in that passage, but are justified by the theocratic relation of God to His people. (Hupfeld). So Ps. 54:9 views the promise of God (Genesis 8:21) as an oath. (Del.).

Psalms 89:6-19. Thy wonder [E. V. wonders] does not here denote a work or a deed, but the nature of God (Geier, J. H. Michaelis, Del.) as distinct from that of all created beings, or separated from their sphere of action (Hupfeld) Judges 13:18; Isaiah 9:5; Psalms 4:4; Psalms 22:4. The assembly of the holy ones [Psalms 89:6, E. V. saints] is here not the people (most) but the angels as in Job 5:1; Job 15:15; Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 30:3, the sons of God, Psalms 29:1 [In Psalms 89:7 where E. V. has “sons of the mighty,” the literal rendering is: sons of God; that is, the angels. See Delitzsch on Job 15:15. It is parallel to the expression considered in the last verse.—J. F. M.]

Psalms 89:13. Since the north (Job 26:7,) denotes the northern heavens and as Tabor and Hermon, being well known mountains on each side of Jordan, are employed to represent the land of Canaan (Venema) or the earth (Geier), especially in joyful passages (Isaiah 55:12; Psalms 98:8) and when national blessings are recounted (Psalms 72:3), the south might seem to denote the southern heaven, and, as in the foregoing verse, the earth to be placed in opposition to heaven (Hupfeld). But the term: right hand, used to designate the south, is in favor of the usual reference to the four quarters of the earth.—In Psalms 89:16, תְרוּעָה is not specially the blowing of the trumpets, which were sounded in the worship of God (Isaaki, Rudinger, Rosenmüller, De Wette, Hitzig). Nor is it to be taken as alluding to the giving of the law at Sinai (Flaminius), or to the battle cry of God as the Lord of hosts (Kimchi, Venema, Muntinghe) or to shouts in honor of the king (Aben Ezra), but to the rejoicing generally at sacred seasons. In Psalms 89:19, לְ is not=as for, and therefore is not a sign of the nominative (Syr., Luther, Ewald, Hitzig), but, as the context determines, it denotes possession or source. It is the relation of the king, who is called our shield [E. V. our defence] as in Ps. 47:10, to Jehovah, that is here dwelt upon.

Psalms 89:20-30. Help. It is unnecessary, instead of עֵזֶר to read נֵזֶר: crown (Venema, Olshausen, Hupfeld), or ׃עֹזmajesty (Hupfeld). The subject is not the choice of David as king, but the assistance rendered him by God against the Philistines. It is he himself, however, who is called the hero [E. V. one that is mighty] as in 2 Samuel 17:10, and not Goliath, as in 1 Samuel 17:51, in which case we would have to render: I have raised up help against the mighty (Hitzig). For the best authorities read in the foregoing stich חֲסִידֶיךָ. This does not refer to the people of God in general but to Samuel and Nathan, for God’s declaration made to them follows. If the singular is preferred the interpretation which understands David to be meant by “the saint” (Hupfeld), is little in accordance with the language employed. [Alexander thinks that if the singular be preferred either Nathan or David may be meant. If the plural is to be taken in the most natural way, as referring to Samuel and Nathan, the singular ought, I think, to relate to the latter, especially as the vision was made directly to Nathan. In Psalms 89:23, יַשִּׁיּא rendered in our version, “shall not exact upon him” is probably to be taken from נָשָׁא to deceive, here entrap, ensnare. Perowne wrongly attributes the different meanings to different species of the same verb.–J. F. M.]. The first-born is not the only (Hengst.), but the favorite son, raised above the others to the highest place, transferred from the Israelitish people (Deuteronomy 26:19; Deuteronomy 28:1), the first-born Son of God (Exodus 4:22, comp. Jeremiah 31:9), to David, the latest-born son of Jesse, and having reference to his seed for evermore. The expression, days of heaven (Psalms 89:30) which is taken from Deuteronomy 11:21, has a similar significance. It is repeated, as a current saying in Sir 45:18, Bar 1:11.

Psalms 89:31-38. The words, once have I sworn (Psalms 89:36) show the unalterable validity of the oath for all time (Sept. and most). To explain it as meaning one as opposed to several (Hengst., Del.), is not opposed to the contents of the oath, but to the context. [According to this view the rendering would be: “One thing have I sworn, etc.,” that is, with regard to the eternity of His throne.—J. F. M.]. Psalms 89:31 ff. prove the priority of 2 Samuel 7:14 as compared with 1 Chronicles 17:13—God has sworn by His holiness (Amos 4:2) as, in other passages by His soul (Amos 6:8; Jeremiah 51:14, [In E. V. rendered “by Himself.”—J. F. M.]), by His right hand (Isaiah 62:8) or by His name (Jeremiah 44:26) or by Himself) Genesis 22:16; Jer. 45:23). By referring to 1 Samuel 7:16, it seems natural to render Psalms 89:38 b: and as the witness in heaven (the rainbow) shall it (David’s throne) endure for ever, (Luther, Geier, and others). But the particle of comparison is absent. We cannot regard the witness in heaven, whose continuance is thus emphasized, as the moon, employed to set forth the perpetuation of David’s race in the same way as the rainbow was a testimony to the continuance of the earth (Aben Ezra, Kimchi and others, Hengst). There is no example of such a conception or usage. We may interpret according to Jeremiah 31:35; Jeremiah 33:20 ff., where God is said to have fixed the laws of the sun, the moon, and the stars, as also the laws of the heavens and earth, as pledges of the fulfilment of His covenant with Israel and His servant David, with direct reference to the duration of his throne (Isaaki, Calvin, Rudinger, Hupfeld). Or we may follow Job 16:19, where God Himself is designated the Witness in heaven and the Surety in its heights (Symmachus, Cocceius, Maurer, Hitzig, Delitzsch). The latter interpretation is favored by the consideration that God, as the only true One, is not only the best surety for the words of His servants, but also for all that He Himself has ordained and promised, and that He Himself testifies to their validity (Deuteronomy 7:9; Isaiah 65:16; Jeremiah 42:5). witnessing here, therefore, has not merely the sense of a solemn promise (Hitzig) as in Micah 1:2; Isaiah 55:4 [The true rendering accordingly is: “And the Witness in heaven is true.”1—J. F. M.].

Psalms 89:39-44. Thou hast cast off,etc. The assumption that these words are put in the mouth of the enemy (Aben Ezra) proceeds from the unwillingness, felt by many, to believe that God could have been reproached by the psalmist for breach of His oath and covenant. But it is just the thought of the contradiction between the actual condition of things and the glorious destiny promised the king by God, and the consciousness of the reliability of the promise, which makes the tempted poet sensible of the impossibility of the ruin of the kingdom. And it is this which causes the transition from complaint and despondency to hope and prayer, while he looks forward to the sure fulfilment of the Divine counsels and promises, which no worldly power could prevent. The expressions used in Psalms 89:41-42 were evidently written with Psalms 80:13 in view. Yet it does not follow from this, either that the king is compared to a vineyard and fortress (Hengst.). or that the people are to be understood as the anointed and the servant, but only that the king and the nation are considered as one, in suffering from the desolations of war. The term נֵזֶר applied to the crown, signifying consecration, is used in contrast to the dishonor inflicted upon the king.—In Psalms 89:44, we are not to render: the rock of his sword (Hengst.), or: O rock! (Olshausen). For, according to the kindred Arabic, צוּר is to be understood as denoting the edge or blade of the sword (Fleischer in Delitzsch), as already the Rabbins had conjectured from the context.

Psalms 89:48. Remember,etc. The sentence consists of abrupt but highly significant expressions, so that it is not necessary, by slight alterations in the text, where the manuscripts differ so much, to extract the rendering: I have remembered, or: remember, O Lord! or, following Psalms 31:5, to change חָלֶד into חָדֵל. The translation: mote (Böttcher) has etymological support: the usual one=term of life, is disputed [Dr. Moll therefore renders. “Remember—I—what a mote!” Delitzsch: “Remember; I—how quickly passing!” and so most expositors substantially. Our version conveys the right idea, but in an order of the words, which, though the most intelligible, does not follow the original faithfully.—J. F. M.]. According to the present punctuation it is incorrect to render the following stich: wherefore shouldest thou have made all men in vain? (Hengst. and most of the ancients). For מָה cannot be construed with לָמָּה עַל but is closely connected with the following word by Daghesh, (Kimchi and most of the recent expositors). [The former sense as given in our version should be retained. The Daghesh and the Makkeph do not affect the sense of this passage. על מה in the sense of why is common. Hengstenberg says that we are to understand after these words the following, “As would be the case, if these should perish for ever.” The hypothetical sense (shouldst Thou have made) ought to be preserved.—J. F. M.].

Bear in my bosom (Psalms 89:51), cannot here as in Deuteronomy 11:12; Isaiah 40:11, refer to the tender, cherishing care of love, since the passage does not allude to the sufferings of the Messiah for all peoples (many of the old expositors,) but to hostile nations. Yet it is not these (De Wette) who are said to be borne, for כָל־רַבּים עַמִּים cannot mean: the whole of many nations, and it is only the reproach and grief caused by them (Jeremiah 15:15) and poured into the bosom (Psalms 79:12) which can be said to be carried in it. The context also alludes distinctly to this. The only doubtful question is, how the three words just cited, which also create the impression that the text has been mutilated, are to be translated. They can hardly be considered as the genitive (Ewald) after חֶרְפָּה, following as they do at such a distance from the latter. Are we then to insert herpah, as though it had fallen out, between the words כל and רבים, which cannot be tolerated in their present position (Hupfeld)? Comp. the correct arrangement in Ezekiel 31:6. Or are we to strike out כל as superfluous (Septuag.)? or regard it as a mutilation for כְּלִמָּה =contempt, following the very similar passage Ezekiel 36:15 (Böttcher)? Or is it a mistaken enlargement of ל=by many nations (Hitzig)? The position of רַבִּים before the principal word may be explained in two ways. It is either due to the conception of the adjective as an indefinite numeral (Psalms 32:10. Pro 31:29; 1 Chronicles 28:5; Nahum 9:28). Or it is to be regarded as a substantive and explained, according to Jeremiah 16:16, as many, that is, people.2


1. Whatever in the world is to endure, must not only be built upon an immovable foundation, but must have also in itself a living principle of progress; to the one as well as to the other, supernatural strength and Divine control are necessary. This is true in a special sense of all that concerns the establishment, preservation, and extension of the kingdom of God on earth. The person, reign, offspring, and history of David are types of that kingdom. In these everything was placed upon the foundation of God’s promises, whose inviolability is attested by His truth and faithfulness, and whose fulfilment is secured by the uninterrupted workings of His mercy. The Church has here a subject of never-ending praise, and is ever stirred up to utter it by the grateful confession of what His servants experience.
2. But the praise of God resounds not only in His Church upon earth, but also among His saints in heaven. It has as its ground His glory, as that wondrous Being, infinitely exalted above all others in that majesty which is awful even to the “holy ones,” and yet is revealed for the consolation of believers in the displays of His incomparable might, unwearied help-bringing goodness, and unswerving faithfulness to His covenant, which is confirmed by an oath.
3. Blessed are the people who know this God, trust His promises, and walk in His light! They cannot perish, even though trials rise and overwhelm them like the waves of the sea. The conviction that God is able and willing to help His own, and that He will do it, saves them from despair, even though all visible support totters and falls, and, as far as man can judge, ruin is at hand, and utter destruction certain. God’s promises are to believers more certain still. But as faith is needed to grasp these promises in the hour of distress, and faithfulness, to hold fast to them amidst the trials of life, so proof of loyalty to His service among the temptations of the world, and a holy life, are necessary to secure the continual fulfilment of those promises in personal experience. For he who will entrust himself to the protection which God affords to His chosen inheritance, must prove himself to belong to it, and must not forget that the God whom he trusts and serves, is the Holy One of Israel, whose throne has righteousness and justice for its foundation, (Proverbs 16:12; Proverbs 25:5), and mercy and truth for its ministers.

4. The service of God involves sometimes trial of our fidelity to our vows, sometimes temptation in the life of faith, sometimes chastening in the way of righteousness, but it has always for its object the strengthening of those bonds which unite the children of God, and their education in the Christian life. For in the holy love of God, righteousness is so united to mercy that He visits even His children with chastisement for their sins; and yet this is the chastening of a Father. Nor does the unfaithfulness of men interfere with the exercise of the faithfulness of God, as His covenant ever stands, no matter how often they break it.
5. God cannot be charged with the responsibility of the temporary contradiction between the present condition and the assured future of the Church and its several members. God alters not His will. He takes not back His promises. He neglects not the exercise of His care and power. He rather prepares, in the very midst of the generation which He will deliver, His instruments for the accomplishment of His purposes. He Himself chooses the suitable persons; calls the men of His choice; furnishes them with the necessary powers and gifts; consecrates them to His service; blesses them for His work; affords them help for toil and conflict; raises them on high from their prostration, and saves them from destruction at the hands of their enemies, or, if they personally succumb, causes their fall to tend to the preservation of the Church.

6. Accordingly, God’s faithfulness to His covenant not only assures for all time His covenant-people of the inviolability of His promises of mercy; it affords to them also at all times an experience of their truth. For by means of the contradiction just mentioned, it makes them sensible of the stringency of the conditions of deliverance, awakens a consciousness of guilt, and directs the glances of the members and leaders of the Church from the troubled present, with its joyless features, to the divinely appointed means of safety. For God does not punish His people by annulling His covenant with them, but rather gives them repeated confirmations of its truth, and, just at the time of the deepest decline of David’s house, and the greatest destruction of the members of the Church, attests the eternal duration of His throne, upon which that Seed of David shall sit, declared His own son by God Himself, the chief in authority among the sons of the Highest (Psalms 82:6) and supreme over the kings of the earth. It is thus that He fixes the Church upon that firm foundation of His promises, from which has arisen the Messianic hope.

7. But there are dark seasons when this expectation is not clearly displayed, and troubled hours when the soul finds it hard to seize the word of promise, so surely attested, and only by a great effort can cling to the word of the oath of the true Witness. Then there is danger, lest the praise of God, whose strength is still the ornament and glory of His people, should be hushed, or changed into vain complaining; lest by so long enduring of evil the hope of amelioration should sink into the fear of greater evil. But the thought that it is still the hand of God which is bestowing a Father’s correction, and that He does not consume the whole of the fleeting period of life with suffering, forms a foundation for hope and a motive for prayer. “There are prayers that are timid, lukewarm or presumptuous; there are also those which are humble, ardent, and confident. The timid prayer does not pass from him who offers it, for it is choked in the thorns of doubt, and cannot rise on the wings of trust. The lukewarm prayer stops when half said, for it has not earnestness and perseverance. The presumptuous prayer may reach even the gates of heaven; but they are barred against it, for humility is absent. If then the way to the throne of God is to be free and open to our prayers, and they are to find willing acceptance and audience there, they must come from a humble, earnest, and trusting heart. Humility teaches us the necessity of prayer; ardor of soul gives it wings and endurance; trust affords it an immovable foundation.” (Bernard of Clairvaux).


The sure mercies of God: (1) as the subject of our grateful praise; (2) as the foundation of our assured hope; (3) as the object of our anxious prayers.—Our reliance upon God’s help in severe distresses, whence it has (1) its firmness, (2) its joyfulness, (3) its liveliness.—The kingdom of God is built upon earth: (1) upon what foundations? (2) by what strength? (3) by what means?—When men complain to God over their distress, they need not cease to praise Him, and they must not cease to trust Him.—We must acknowledge and praise the majesty of God, not less in its awful exaltation, than in its loving condescension.-When God receives the praises of the holy ones in heaven, He at the same time listens to the prayers, praises, and thanksgiving of believers on earth.—The fatherly guidance of God in the education of His children for the heavenly kingdom.—The unfaithfulness of men brings down the punishments of God; but it does not prevent the exercise of His faithfulness, or cast dishonor upon His promises.—All God’s revelations and all His dealings must incite and assist us to fear, love, and trust Him above all else.—God’s special government of His people; (1) in its holy requirements; (2) in its gracious dealings; (3) in its blessed effects.—Only through the Son of God can we become and remain children of the Highest, citizens of His kingdom, and heirs of His blessings.—While we remain in the kingdom of God, we fear neither the certain prospect of death, the evanescence of life, nor the darkness of the grave; we walk in the light of God’s countenance.

Luther: Psalms 89:0. is a prophecy of Christ and His Church—that it should never cease or stand still on account of any sin, so that our blessedness does not depend upon our perfect observance of God’s law, unlike the kingdom promised to the Jews, and the kingdom of the whole world, which last no longer or further than they are righteous.—This has all been promised of old for our consolation in these last times, so that we need not despond, even if it seems to us that Christianity exists no longer on earth.

Calvin: For the afflicted Church; for God did not arrange the terms of the covenant of grace with David alone, but had in mind the body of the whole Church for all time.

Starke: The mercy of God makes all His works a source of consolation to His people, and all the objects of nature a source of profit, lightens their afflictions, and makes them joyful in God.—The All-sufficient God could do very well without mankind, or He could bind them to the performance of all duties, so that they would be bound to fulfil His will in the strictest manner, even without the promise of a gracious reward. Is it not then a most wonderful fact that it has pleased God to make covenant with us men?—In the eyes of an unbeliever God is so small that he neither knows nor regards Him at all; in the eyes of a believer He is so great that he will neither see nor know anything but Him, in heaven or in earth.—Joy in God is a sure token that those who manifest it are His children; for when they rejoice in Him they walk in His light, and are enlightened by His favor. None of the ungodly experience this.—Christ’s kingdom is the true universal monarchy.—If all the kings of the earth must bow before Jehovah, why do the most insignificant in the land refuse to know and receive him?—A rod, even though it be painful, is better than a sword; better to be chastened by the Father than to be punished by the Judge. This is the difference between the sufferings of the righteous and the punishment of the wicked.-The Church of Christ is derided by all who are not true believers; and yet it is its greatest glory to endure the dishonor cast upon its Head.—Such an end as this will all believers have; the sorrowful complaint will be changed into a song of joy, and the Kyrie eleison into a joyful hallelujah.—Tertullian: O blessed people, in whose behalf God swears! O unhappy people, who will not believe God even though Ho swears.—Menzel: We learn here upon what the consolation and blessedness of poor sinners depend, not upon the conversion and repentance which God requires, but upon His mere mercy and goodness, which leads them to conversion and repentance.-Rigger: We may learn from this Psalm what others before us have experienced, how they have patiently borne a part in the conflict ordained them by God, and have maintained their grasp upon the mercy and truth of God held out before them.—Tholuck: The hearts of those that fear God are not so rigid and unfeeling that the strokes from the hand of God, when He proves them, leave no trace behind; nor are they so weak and languid that all confidence at once fails them.—Guenther; All affliction arising from sin is only the chastening of a Father’s love for our salvation. His covenant is not broken. He has only veiled His mercy.—Diedrich: He who lives to praise God, will never live in vain; he will have what he desires to have.—In the concluding words the collectors of the Psalms testify that they could still rejoice in God, and praise Him in spite of all temporal distress, and hope from the rich blessings of the future to receive an answer to the anxious cries of this and of all the Psalms.—Taube: Eternity swallows up time, but the temporal cannot absorb the eternal.—The wonderful and incomparable, the dreadful and awe-inspiring, the exalted and majestic Creator and Sovereign of the world—this is Israel’s God; His all-powerful majesty, His mighty arm, His strong hand, His high right hand, serve to fulfil His eternal purposes of mercy and peace, which centre in Christ Jesus—this is Israel’s consolation.—The true members of the covenant walk according to the commands of God, nor seek their safety elsewhere than in free grace.

[Matth. Henry: Among men it is too often found that those who are most able to break their word are less careful to keep it; but God is both strong and faithful; He can do everything, and yet will never do an unjust thing.—The stability of the material heavens is an emblem of the truth of God’s word: the heavens may be clouded by the vapors arising out of the earth, but they cannot be touched, they cannot be changed.—(Psalms 89:14). Mercy in promising; truth in performing. Truth, in being as good as thy word; mercy, in being better.

Scott: Our filial confidence in God’s love should not abate our veneration of His majesty; for then our worship on earth would bear no resemblance to that of the angels in heaven, (Isaiah 6:1-5). Surely then our external posture and our serious attention should indicate the reverence of our hearts, when we assemble to worship this glorious God.

Barnes: It is proper to pray that God would bless us soon; that He would not withhold His grace; that He would remember that our life is very brief, and if that grace is to be bestowed upon us to save us or make us useful, it must be bestowed soon. A young man may properly employ this prayer; how much more so one in the decline of life!—J. F. M.]


[1][For the use of ו in asseverations, corresponding to that in Arabic, and that of our word by, see Ewald, Heb. Gr., § 340 c. The force of the verse is: It shall be established for ever as the moon, and (as surely as) there is a faithful witness in heaven.—J. F. M.].

[2][The adjective is probably here placed before the noun, which rarely happens, on account of the emphasis laid upon it, as in Psalms 32:10. See Green Heb. Gr. § 249. 1a. The reproach is not merely the strongest which can be inflicted (כָל) it is also accumulated as coming from so many sources (דַבִּים). The rendering: “mighty” given to the latter word in E. V. is incorrect.—J. F. M.].

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 89". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.