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Bible Commentaries

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

Psalms 9

Verses 1-20

Psalms 9:0

To the chief Musician upon Muth-labben, A Psalm of David.

1          I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart;

I will shew forth all thy marvellous works.

2     I will be glad and rejoice in thee:

I will sing praise to thy name, O thou Most High.

3     When mine enemies are turned back,

They shall fall and perish at thy presence.

4     For thou hast maintained my right and my cause;

Thou satest in the throne judging right.

5     Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked,

Thou hast put out their name forever and ever.

6     O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end:

And thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them.

7     But the Lord shall endure forever:

He hath prepared his throne for judgment.

8     And he shall judge the world in righteousness,

He shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness.

9     The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed,

A refuge in times of trouble.

10     And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee:

For thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.

11     Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion:

Declare among the people his doings.

12     When he maketh inquisition for blood, he

He forgetteth not the cry of the humble.

13     Have mercy upon me, O Lord; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me,

Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death:

14     That I may shew forth all thy praise

In the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in thy salvation.

15     The heathen are sunk down in the pit

In the net which they hid is their own foot taken.

16     The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth:

The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah.

17     The wicked shall be turned into hell,

And all the nations that forget God.

18     For the needy shall not always be forgotten:

The expectation of the poor shall not perish forever.

19     Arise, O Lord; let not man prevail:

Let the heathen be judged in thy sight.

20     Put them in fear, O Lord:

That the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah.


Its contents and character. A Psalm of thanksgiving (Psalms 9:1-2) after a victory (Psalms 9:3) over the heathen wrought by Divine judgment (Psalms 9:4-6), expressing confidence in His constant protection of the oppressed (Psalms 9:7-10); therefore the pious have to thank God (Psalms 9:11-12), and pray to Him in every time of need (Psalms 9:13-14). The judicial government of God causes the enemies finally to perish and saves the sufferers (Psalms 9:15-18); therefore the prayer (Psalms 9:19-20) which shows the dangerous position of the Psalmist and his people. The people of Israel were indeed very generally in such circumstances as this (Hupf.), but this does not imply that it is here merely a supposed case (Hengst.). If the thankful remembrance (Psalms 9:1) embraces the entire series of former benefits, yet Psalms 9:6 refers to what has just happened, and indeed to great overthrows of a foreign enemy after severe distress in Israel, which has not even yet entirely ceased. There is no sufficient reason to descend into the times after the exile (Ewald), still less for the Maccabean times with reference to the death of Judas Maccabeus (Venema). This Psalm cannot have originated in the exile itself (Ferrand) on account of the “gates of the daughter of Zion” (Psalms 9:14), and we may not place it too early, because Psalms 9:11 already mentions Zion as the royal seat of Jehovah. In agreement with this is the reference which some overlook to the death of Goliath (Chald. et al.) or to Absalom (Ruding,). or Nabal (Grot.) Maurer thinks that the king Hezekiah was the author of this Psalm after his deliverance from the siege of Sennacherib. De Wette refers to the Assyrian times with reference to Isaiah 33:0 Most interpreters abide by David, and indeed either without attempting to mark the time more closely (Dathe, Knapp, Rosenm.), or refer it to the Ammonite and Syrian war (Mich., Muntinghe, et al.), or what is best, to the wars with the Philistines after the event, 2 Samuel 5:7, (Hitzig, Delitzsch). Hitzig adduces as marks of its composition in the earliest times of psalmody: the rough and broken language, the terseness of expression, peculiarities in the use of words and forms. He gives prominence to the many resemblances with those Psalms, which are decidedly Davidic, by the apt remark that we must not draw the lines too closely in distinguishing the ideas and language of David (comp. 2 Samuel 1:19-27; 2 Samuel 7:18-29; 2 Samuel 23:1-7); and he remarks that we meet the alphabetical arrangement of verses, nowhere indeed before the time of Jeremiah, but that the arrangement in the order of the consonants is here very freely used, and is not carried out; a later author would not have ventured to proceed so loosely.8

The Psalm is so complete in itself, and has with many strong resemblances to the following Psalm, such a different tone that the fact that Psalms 10:0, which is without a title, partially carries out the alphabetical arrangement used in this Psalm only to ק, does not justify us in regarding both Psalms as originally one connected alphabetical Psalm, which afterwards was broken up and revised in two parts (although important reasons may be adduced for this. They are best presented by Hupf. and G. Baur in De Wette’s Comm.). Nor does it justify us in accordance with the Sept. and Vulgate to unite them again into one Psalm (Ewald, Krahm, Sachs). [Hitzig regards them as two co-ordinate halves of a whole of higher unity. To this Delitzsch assents, and this seems to be the best statement of the case, for the agreement is close and remarkable as well in the Psalms themselves, as in their giving parts of the same alphabetical order. Hupfeld shows that the difference in tone is not unusual in the Psalms. Such changes of feeling are frequent (vid.Psalms 27:0; Psalms 40:0; and in Psalms 9:0 itself, in Psalms 9:13-14).—C. A. B.]

An attempt has been made by Delitzsch to express the alphabetical arrangement of the Hebrew in German. It would, however, injure our efforts for perspicuity if we should adopt it. It only remains to remark that the introductory strophe, which states the contents, has the same initial letter א in all four lines; that a strophe with ד is entirely lacking; also one with ה, unless this is contained in the holy name of God (Psalms 9:7, Hupf); and that the closing strophe has ק instead of כ.

[Str. I. Psa 9:1. With my whole heart.—Hupfeld: “Partly with the heart, not merely with the mouth, (Isaiah 29:13), sincerely, hence 119:7,‘ with honest heart;’ partly, zealously, with all the powers of the soul, as love and trust in God should be, Deuteronomy 4:29; Deuteronomy 6:5; Deuteronomy 10:12, etc. In this is contained the idea that all the honor is given to God, all is ascribed to His grace, and it is not divided between himself and God (Calv.)”—C. A. B.]

Str. II. Psa 9:3. In the turning of mine enemies back.—All the ancient versions regard בְ as temporal, and indeed the equivalent of when in the antecedent, to which the second member of the verse then forms the consequent in the future [So A. V.] Most interpreters, however, find here stated the subject and reason of the joy=on account of that, but they translate the infinitive, in whose stead imperfects directly come, in the rule by the perfect, and thus loosen somewhat the connection between the fact of the victory and its celebration, which are so closely connected in the Psalm. [Delitzsch regards the preposition בְ as indicating time and reason at the same time, like Latin recedentibus hostibus meis retro=in the turning of my enemies back. So Ewald, Alexander. Perowne renders it as reason, “because mine enemies are turned backward (because) they stumble and perish at thy presence.” Hupfeld regards it as dependent upon the previous joy and praise as the ground or reason of it, and translates, “that mine enemies retreat back, stumble and fall before Thy countenance.” This is the best rendering.—C. A. B.]

The perfects in Psalms 9:4-6, however, are in contrast with the imperfects in Psalms 9:7 sq., and show that the Divine judgment is not expected first on account of His righteousness (De Wette and the ancients who also interpreted this Psalm as Messianic), but has already taken place (Hupf. et al.) The reference here, moreover, is not to God’s sitting on His eternal, heavenly, royal throne, as Psalms 9:7 a [A. V.], but to a historical, and indeed judicial act of this eternal, all-embracing Sovereignty of God, for the accomplishment of which He has taken His seat upon His throne of judgment (Psalms 9:4 b), which He has set up (Psalms 9:7 b), and from which also He will in the future (Psalms 9:8) hold judgment, and render decisions respecting the nations.

Str. III. Psa 9:6. The enemy—destroyed to ruins forever; and cities hast Thou rooted out; their memory is lost, even theirs.—[A. V. is entirely astray here. “O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end; and thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them.”—C. A. B.] Enemy is a collective noun, and is to be connected with the plural of the following verb. With this construction the following words are to be regarded as in apposition (De Wette), or as accusative of effect (Hupf.). The most ancient translations have followed another pointing which is found still in same Codd.; swords instead of ruins. According to some Codd., we must also translate: cities hast thou forsaken. The translation enemies instead of cities is unjustifiable. At the close of the clause the pronoun is placed, notwithstanding the suffix has already preceded. The emphasis which is thereby laid upon cities means that their vanishment from history is sure, in consequence of the Divine judgment. For the various untenable attempts to explain this entire passage, which is burdened with many difficulties, vid. Rosenm. Hitzig explains very differently; O thou enemy! the abuse has an end forever; and the cities which thou forsakest, their remembrance is blotted out forever. [This is an exceedingly difficult passage. The author has the true idea in which he follows Hupfeld. I may mention, however, that the “Thou” refers back to the “Thou” of the preceding verses, and is Jehovah Himself, and not the enemy.—C. A. B.]

Str. V. Psalms 9:9. Stronghold [A. V.: “Refuge”], literally height, as a place of refuge to which one has been snatched away from enemies.—Oppressed, literally down-trodden, pounded, but constantly only in a figurative sense.—Trouble, literally to be cut off, partly as excluding, a bar, partly as confining, distress (Hupf.).

Str. VI. Psalms 9:12. For the avenger of blood has remembered them [A. V.: “When he maketh inquisition for blood.” The כִּי is not “when,” as in the English version, but “for,” “because,” assigning the reason of the praise, as Ewald and the author, or the subject of the declaration “that,” as Hupf.: and Delitzsch.—Hupf.: “דֹרֵשׁ דָמִים properly means the goel, the nearest relative of the murdered man, who must avenge him according to the Oriental custom; here a title of God as one who punishes, recompenses, and judges; primarily of bloodshed—but it is not confined to this, but extends to the punishment of misdeeds in general.” “Blood is used typically or synedochically, not only for death, destruction in general, but also for injury, harm, hurt of any kind. So ‘blood-guilt’ is also used generally for wickedness, violence, and the guilt or liability for it,” vid. Hupf. in loco. “Thus God is said to be the avenger of blood, as the avenger of evil in general, derived from the most conspicuous kind of wickedness and its punishment.”—C. A. B.]

The reading (Psalms 9:12) is doubtful, mostly between עֲניִּיִם and עֲנָוִים. Hupf. seeks to prove against Hengst. that there is no difference in the meaning, but Delitzsch maintains that the former word means: those who are in a condition of depression owing to afflictions which have befallen them; the latter: those who are in a condition of internal commotion, that is, of humility and meekness.

Str. VII. Psalms 9:13. Be gracious unto me [A. V.: “Have mercy upon me”].—In the Hebrew figuratively, in an uncontracted form of a word which is usually contracted. Many interpreters, even Delitzsch and Hitzig, find in Psalms 9:13-14 the prayer of the sufferer mentioned in Psalms 9:12; others, with Calv., regard the second part of the Psalm as beginning here, the prayer for help, for which the former part lays the foundation; others still, with Ruding., regard the prayer as breaking forth in sudden change of tone from a feeling of need that was still present.

[Gates of death.—Sheol is here poetically regarded as a prison with strong gates and bars, from which there is no escape, vid.Psalms 107:18; Isaiah 38:10. Hupfeld refers to the Ἀϊδαω πύλαι of Homer.—C. A. B.]

In the gates of the daughter of Zion.—These are in contrast with the gates of death (Calv.); but the daughter of Zion is not the heavenly Jerusalem with the praises of the blessed, but the earthly Jerusalem, or, more properly, its inhabitants. Cities and people were, in ancient times, readily personified as females, now as virgins, now as mothers, whose daughters then were the inhabitants as a class. It may, however, refer to the filial relation of the people to God, parallel with the expression “son,” in which case it must be translated Daughter Zion, as Isaiah 37:0. “In the gates” does not mean: within the city, in the temple (Hengst.), but in public, before a great assemblage, amidst a number of people. Hupf. has excellently shown that the gates, as a place of public gathering and of all kinds of public affairs, are to be regarded not only as a noisy market-place, but also as set apart for still higher purposes.

Str. VIII. Psalms 9:15. Sunk down—literally, were plunged. If the perfect is regarded as prophetic (Calv., De Wette, Hengst.), as if it were here said with confidence that the preceding prayers would be heard, the contrast with the imperfects of the following strophe is lost. If this is regarded as important, it may be taken as expressing either merely a clause of experience, as a basis for confidence in the future (Hupfeld), or as referring to the recent historical past (Delitzsch).

Str. IX. Psalms 9:17. Return [A. V.: be turned].—This idea, according to Hupf., Delitzsch, Hitzig, is not to be taken away from שוּב. But when Hupf. finally concludes that it here most naturally refers to the idea of “again,” with J. H. Michaelis, and not to the place whither they go, but to the state which they left, namely, the life, which they lose again; then not only a part of the polemic against Hengst. falls to the ground, but the fundamental idea of the remarks of Hitzig upon the language of the passage, so sharply emphasized by him, that the heathen must return thither whence they came, is lost; since now Sheol is named as this place, the expression cannot be entirely the equivalent of “becoming dust again, sinking down to nothingness.” A glance is given into a dreadful condition after death, which is in close connection with the condemned. It is not their physical descent or their historical origin which is here stated, but their home, or the place to which they have shown in their earthly life that they belong.

Str. X. Psalms 9:19. Let not man grow strong [Let not man prevail—A. V.—Hupf. and Perowne, et al., agree with the author. The idea is that God will not allow him to grow strong, so that he may carry out his designs. “Prevail” is too strong a word. Hupf.: “As God rises up, man is to cease from being strong, and appears in his weakness and nothingness.” Delitzsch and Ewald translate “defy,” but without sufficient grounds.—C. A. B.]

Psalms 9:20. Terror [A. V.: “fear”].—Most interpreters regard מוֹרָה as an orthographical variation from מוֹרָא, so that the reference is to terrors of God (Genesis 35:5). So already Chald. and Aquil. On the other hand, Sept., Syr., Vulg. translate according to the pointing מוֹרֶא=lawgiver, teacher. With Rabbi Isaki, however, A. Schultens, J. H. Michaelis, et al., regard the word of the text as Judges 13:5, and frequently, as razor, and think of the cutting off of the beard as the greatest shame. Hitzig finally believes that the original reading was שְמוּרָה=set a guard for them, as an arrangement which hinders them from striking=hindrances. (In the first edit. of his Comm. he regards the word in question as a secondary form of תוֹרָה and as=חֹק, comp. Job 14:13; Jeremiah 5:22, in order to get the same idea of hindrances. Symm. also has νόμον, but in the sense, give them instruction.) The singular אנוֹש is here not a collective, but emphasizes frailty as the characteristic of man when compared with God.


1. He who has lived to see and experience the wonders of the Lord, feels compelled to narrate them. It is well if he can do this with thankfulness and joy. For it is the will of God that the honor due Him should be given publicly and that His name should be declared among all nations, in order that even the heathen may become acquainted with Him. For God Judges the world and all who dwell therein; but He saves also all who turn to Him. Therefore the world is afraid, but the Church rejoices; their hope will not be ashamed if only their faith falters not. For God’s temporal acts of judgment and salvation are only preludes to that which will take place at the end of days.

2. God does not postpone judgment and salvation till the end of the world, although times of trouble come for the pious and days of apparent victory for their enemies. He already judges in history individuals and nations, so that all traces of them are blotted out from the earth, and their name is forgotten. He likewise saves, blesses and raises up others who take refuge with Him and put their trust in Him. In order that they may find Him and learn to know Him, He has arranged and offered places where He reveals Himself, and services which bestow blessings, and means of grace and of salvation, as He has also established His judgment-seat in the midst of the world, and made the people to know that though He is enthroned in the heavens, He has not departed from man. However, it is made known what man has to expect at the last judgment, in that the names of those upon whom the Divine punishment falls will be forever blotted out, and that they will not only die, but they are to be sent back into the lower world as to their home; whilst the pious are raised up from the gates of death, and present their life in the Church as saved by grace, and thereby they strengthen and deepen their communion with the living and eternal God of salvation.

3. There is no direct declaration here of the resurrection of eternal life; the foundations and prerequisites of such a faith, merely, are laid and it is hinted at negatively in that the frailty of man is emphasized as a characteristic peculiar to him from birth and nature, and it is brought out prominently that his rebellion against God is vain and destructive, and the entire description of the Divine treatment of the wicked in His judicial dealings with them, leads to a separation made by God, which has begun in spiritual death, and has been continued in temporal death, as brought on by Divine punishment, and whose end is not yet announced, is also not yet to be seen, upon which, however, a dreadful perspective is opened. Hæc est continua fidei in hac vita exercitatio, gratias agere de victoria, et misericordiam implorare, ut vincas (Bugenhagen).


The judgments of God are as unerring as they are unavoidable; as terrible as they are just; as salutary as they are necessary.—The arm of the Lord in just judgment casts down to hell those who forget Him, and raises up by grace from the gates of death to life in the Church those who take refuge with Him in the fulness of faith.—The rebellion of man against God and His holy ordinances is no less foolish than wicked, yet it is as guilty as it is weak and audacious.—God is essentially the helper of the needy; on this base your trust in every time of need.—God does not forget even those who forget Him; how should He not be mindful of those who daily call upon Him? It is likewise good for the pious to be reminded of death, judgment and hell.—The temporal consequences of sin are often now more severe than man can bear; but when they are regarded and received as the well-deserved punishments of the righteous God, the terrors which have fallen upon him on account of the Divine judgment may be wholesome for him; where they are not, death will bring him no deliverance.—The good that the Lord has done thee in silence, thou mayest confess publicly and thank Him for it in the Church.—Thankfulness of heart and the song of praise agree well together; the one unites man closer to God; the other edifies the Church and draws the attention of those who are without to the wonders of the Lord.—He whose life is saved by God from perils, will be used by God for the benefit of His kingdom and His Church.

Starke: All the benefits received from God are real wonders to the humble soul; for it is an inconceivable grace, that God the Lord should show so much mercy bodily and spiritual with wonderful wisdom and faithfulness to those who are in the highest degree unworthy.—The characteristic of a holy joy well pleasing to God, is that the heart and mouth are full of thankfulness and the praise of God.—God fights for His children, and he who fights against them fights against God Himself.—The enemies of the Church cannot be defeated at all by man or human power; but only by the omnipotence of God; for they are confederates of the mighty prince of darkness; therefore all the honor of the victory belongs to the Lord alone.—Where the fear of God retires there desolation follows; the curse presses upon that land and consumes it as with fire.—Because God abides forever, therefore those who trust in God and put their hope in God abide forever.—He who honors the name of the Lord truly and actively can never lack hope and faith.—Great is the kindness of God that He should dwell with believers! Great is His faithfulness that He should inquire for the blood of those who are oppressed and should not forget their cries.—The spiritual Zion is not confined to any place, in the world, but the Lord dwells everywhere where there are believers, and may be prayed to and praised in all respects.—If a man should merely tell the grace which has been bestowed upon himself he would have material enough to praise God daily without intermission.—It is a great blindness in the heart of the wicked that they should suppose God does not inquire after what is done in earth.—A man’s own words spoken in unbelief and his actions are snares and judgment enough for him. Forgetfulness of God is the source of all ungodliness and consequently of everlasting ruin.

Luther: That is truly a new kind of men, that live among the dead and are glad among the suffering.—Selnekker: He who has not taken refuge in time of need, easily supposes that faith is a mere delusion on the tongue; but he who enters the school where David has been, has a very different opinion.—Bake: Prayer must not originate with the tongue, but in the heart.—Arndt: We should pray and fight with the strength of the Spirit and of faith against great deeds of violence, if we would have the victory.—Herberger: Thanksgiving is the best sound at the table, in the house, in the Church and in the city; it will also be the everlasting sound of heaven.—God’s gracious gifts are simply undeserved wonders.—Unrighteousness destroys the land and the people.—Wicked advice does more harm to those who contrive it than to any one else.—Œtinger: Zion is indeed little and poor, but yet God dwells there.—Tholuck: The true kind of triumph in all our actions is to rejoice in God and praise the name of the Most High.—Taube: Thankfulness and prayer are the two parts between which, as between two levers going up and down, moves the entire militant Church of God, and every Christian heart which fights the good fight.—To true thanksgiving belong: 1) the entire heart, not half of it; 2) humility, to which all the benefits of God appear as inconceivable grace and pure wonders, as indeed they are; 3) modest faithfulness, which does not stop with the gift, but goes straight to the Giver and rests in Him alone; 4) the enlightened eye, which knows the true name of the Giver and declares it in accordance with the nature of the gift.

[Matth. Henry: The better God is known, the more He is trusted. Those who know Him to be a God of infinite wisdom will trust Him farther than they can see Him, Job 35:14; to be a God of almighty power, will trust Him when creature confidences fail, and they have nothing else to trust to, 2 Chronicles 20:12; and to be a God of infinite grace and goodness, will trust Him though He slay them, Job 13:15. Those that know Him to be a God of inviolable truth and faithfulness will rejoice in His word of promise and rest upon that, though the performance be deferred and intermediate providences seem to contradict it. Those that know Him to be the Father of spirits, and an everlasting Father, will trust Him with their souls as their main care; and trust Him at all times even to the end.—Spurgeon: Gladness and joy are the appropriate spirit in which to praise the goodness of the Lord. Birds extol the Creator in notes of overflowing joy, the cattle low forth His praise with tumult of happiness, and the fish leap up in His worship with excess of delight. Moloch may be worshipped with shrieks of pain, and Juggernaut may be honored by dying groans and inhuman yells, but He whose name is Love is best pleased with holy mirth, and sanctified gladness of His people. Daily rejoicing is an ornament to the Christian character, and a suitable robe for God’s choristers to wear.—Thousands may come at once to the throne of the Judge of all the earth, but neither plaintiff nor defendant shall have to complain that He is not prepared to give their cause a fair hearing.—How the prospect of appearing before the impartial tribunal of the Great King should act as a check to us when tempted to sin, and as a comfort when we are slandered or oppressed.—Saints are not so selfish as to look only to self; they desire mercy’s diamond, that they may let others see it flash and sparkle, and may admire Him who gives such priceless gems to His beloved.—Prayers are the believer’s weapons of war. When the battle is too hard for us we call in our great ally, who, as it were, lies in ambush until faith gives the signal by crying out, “Arise, O Lord.”—One would think that men would not grow so vain as to deny themselves to be but men, but it appears to be a lesson which only a Divine school-master can teach to some proud spirits. Crowns leave their wearers but men, degrees of eminent learning make their owners not more than men, valor and conquest cannot elevate beyond the dead level of “but men,” and all the wealth of Crœsus, the wisdom of Solon, the power of Alexander, the eloquence of Demosthenes, if added together, would leave the possessor but a man.—Plumer: An occasional “God, I thank Thee,” is no fit return for a perpetual stream of rich benefits.—C. A. B.]


[8][Delitzsch: “These two Psalms [9 and 10] show that David composed acrostics. And why not? Among the Romans also Ennius already composed acrostics (Cicero de divin. II., 54, § 111) who did not belong to the leaden, but to the iron age, from which the golden subsequently arose; and our most ancient German heroics are in the form of alliteration. Moreover, the alphabetic form is popular, as we see from Augustine, Retract, I. 20. It is not merely a weak substitute for the departed spirit of poetry, it is not merely an external ornament for the eye, it has itself a meaning. The didactic poet regards the row of letters as stairs up which he leads his pupil to the sanctuary of wisdom, or as the casket of many parts in which he places the pearl of his wisdom. And the lyric poet regards them as the harp upon all the strings of which he plays in order to express his feelings. Even the prophet does not scorn to allow the order of letters to exert an influence upon the order of his thought, as is clear from Nahum 1:3-7. When now among the nine alphabetical Psalms (9, 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145.), four bear the name of David (9, 25, 34, 145) we will not regard them as not by David because the alphabetical arrangement is more or less thoroughly carried out.”—C. A. B.]

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Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 9". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". 1857-84.