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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary

Psalms 76

Verses 1-12


Superscription.—“To the chief Musician on Neginoth.” See Introduction to Psalms 54:0.

A Psalm—a Song of Asaph. (See notes on the authorship of Psalms 74:0) The superscription may be thus paraphrased—A Psalm, a Song of Asaph, to be delivered to the director of music, that he may arrange for its performance with the accompaniment of stringed instruments.

Occasion.—There appear to us very good reasons for regarding the Psalm as a celebration of Israel’s victory over the Assyrians. The preceding Psalm sang the heroic anticipation of triumph, this one the uxultant realisation of triumph.


The victorious army of Sennacherib is encamped before Jerusalem threatening to besiege it unless Hezekiah will submit to them, and admit them into the city. The invading army was very numerous and powerful, and was emboldened by many and signal victories. In his extremity Hezekiah is strengthened by the word of the Lord, by the mouth of Isaiah the prophet, and he refuses to surrender to the generals of Sennacherib. Isaiah declared, that “the virgin, the daughter of Zion, despised and laughed to scorn” the invaders. According to His promise, God interposed on behalf of His people, “and on the first night of the siege, a hundred fourscore and five thousand, with their captains and generals, were destroyed.” (Vide 2 Chronicles 32:0; Isaiah 37:0; Josephus Antiq. x. 1.)

We may profitably regard this chapter of ancient history as an illustration of God’s Championship of His people. It is common to speak of human life upon earth as a battle. To every man who is in any degree acquainted with the meaning and importance of life there are difficulties and struggles to be encountered. There is disorder to be attacked, subdued, made orderly and rhythmic. There are ignorance, stupidity, brutality, to be encountered and vanquished by intelligence, wisdom, and manliness. The truly good man, he who, in the strength of God, is trying to live holily, usefully, and bravely, especially finds life a battle. To him there are not only the manifest enemies of ignorance, vice, and crime, but subtle, spiritual foes within him and around him. His own soul is beleaguered by enemies. The cause of God in the world, too, is attacked by foes, as was Jerusalem by the Assyrian hosts. We are inadequate to contend with forces so numerous and powerful. Yet “there be more with us than with him: with him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles.”

I. The enemies of the good are many and mighty. The Assyrian army was vast and powerful, and had been very victorious. The Psalmist speaks of them as “the stouthearted,” … “the men of might.” They illustrate the enemies of the people of God. “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God,” &c. (Ephesians 6:10-49.6.13). Good men have to contend with Satan. He is the great leader of the antagonism against God and goodness. He strives for his own diabolical mastery, for the sovereignty of darkness and evil. In our day the great adversary of God and man seeks to compass his diabolic ends not so much by force as by fraud. The time was when the good had to dread the “roaring lion, going about seeking whom he may devour.” At present, he is far more dangerous when he “is transformed into an angel of light.” He works with a shrewd cunning, a subtle diplomacy, and by means of politic disguises. He can assume the self-possession of a man of the world, or the manners of a gentleman. He can speak the language of accomplished scholarship, or of deep and patient thought. Or, he can assume the garb of religion, and speak the language of piety. Indirectly and by means of artful disguises he seeks to accomplish his fiendish purpose, the utter depravation and ruin of souls. In all scenes and at all times he steadily works to accomplish his object. By many and varied means he is suggesting evil to the soul, and stimulating and impelling the soul under false pretences to follow that evil. A man is lured to drunkenness under the pretence of sociality and good companionship. Another is snared into the most miserable avarice under the guise of making provision for future emergencies, or of practising a proper economy. In this indirectness and subtlety of method lie the great strength of the devil; and by reason of these his attacks are fraught with great peril to men. Moreover, in his great warfare against the good, Satan has many allies. From the revelations of the Bible, it is clear to us that there are many angelic helpers of the good, and that there are many fallen angels who, under their great leader, oppose the good. There are ranks and orders of these fallen angels—“principalities, powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, spiritual hosts of wickedness.”

These beings exert much influence in suggesting evil to the mind and heart, and in impelling the mind and heart to evil. He is but a shallow thinker that ridicules the idea of malign spiritual influences acting upon us; and has studied with but little effect either the experiences of his own heart or the phenomena of mind in general. Assuredly

“There are more things in heaven and earth
Than are dreamt of in his philosophy.”

Satan has allies also in human society. The good have to contend against “the world” as well as against the devil, or against the devil as he works by human agency. There are men of splendid but impure imagination who are corrupting souls by sensuous literature. There are others of education and mental power who are producing works which tend to unsettle men’s faith not only in human creeds, but in Divine revelation, and even in the reality of truth, and righteousness, and love. Music, and many of the so-called refinements and arts of life are, to a great extent, made to minister to the senses rather than to the soul, to the appetites rather than to the aspirations of man’s nature. And the souls of many seem steeped in worldliness. At the shrine of Mammon immense multitudes are ever bowing. Men are sacrificing all mental culture and progress for gold, sacrificing principle for gold, sometimes sacrificing their soul for gold. Parents are willing to immolate their children upon the altar of Mammon, and sacrifice their daughters for gold. It is not without reason that we pray for deliverance from the snares and seductions of “the world;” for they are full of peril, and they beset all classes and conditions of men. The good have also to contend against enemies within themselves. There are tendencies to evil in our own nature. The completeness of our moral power is broken. “The flesh lusteth against the spirit.” Passion is frequently arrayed against principle. Inclination and conscience are often at variance. “To will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” There is that in us which responds to temptation, and gives to temptation its power; that in us which is attracted by evil in certain of its forms as steel is drawn by the magnet. Thus some of the severest struggles are fought in the arena of human souls. Here, then, are the enemies against which we have to battle, “the world, the flesh, and the devil;” evil within us, and evil around us; ignorance, superstition, oppression, bigotry, unbelief, vice, crime, pain, disease, misery, and death. “O our God, we have no might against this great company that cometh against us, neither know we what to do; but our eyes are upon Thee.”

II. The Champion of the good is greater than all their enemies. The Psalmist represents God as completely vanquishing the foes of Israel. In one night one hundred and eighty-five thousand of the Assyrian army were slain. “When God arose to judgment to save” His people, the enemy was speedily and utterly discomfited.

1. He issues forth to battle from Zion, Zion is represented as the dwelling-place of God. “In Judah is God known: His name is great in Israel: in Salem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling-place in Zion.” “The Lord hath chosen Zion; He hath desired it for His habitation. This is my rest for ever: here will I dwell; for I have desired it.” Sennacherib had virtually challenged Jehovah to combat. He sent to the Jews, saying, “No god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people out of mine hand, and out of the hand of my fathers; how much less shall your God deliver you out of mine hand?” The contest was “between the gods as well as the military forces of the two kingdoms.” The presumptuous monarch begins to besiege the holy city. He will capture the very dwelling-place of the Lord God of Sabaoth. God accepts the challenge, and in the silence of the night. He calmly goes forth, and with the breath of His nostrils He slays His foes. “The stout-hearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep; and none of the men of might have found their hands.” And the proud boaster hastily retreats, to meet with a speedy and ignominious death. Not in any local Zion does God now manifest His glory. Jesus Christ is the true Shekinah, “the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person.” God goes forth in Him to combat His foes. The great controversies of Christendom are concerning Him. The opposition to religion is to a great extent directed against Him. His spirit and principles, His authority to legislate for human society, His right to reign over men, His claim of God-hood, these are combated by men to-day. All the opposition to which His disciples are subjected He regards as directed against Himself. Their foes He holds to be His foes. He is the great antagonist of all evil. By His Spirit and His Church He wages war against sin, suffering, and death. In proportion as His people are animated by His Spirit and live in His life are they victorious in conflict. God in Christ shall conquer all our foes. The sublime wisdom of His teaching, the Divine beauty of His life, the heart-moving, Godlike power of His death shall subdue the world unto Him. “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,” &c.

2. He issues forth to complete victory. When God entered the lists the vast and valiant hosts of Sennacherib were swept into the silent sleep of death in a moment. “There brake He the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle,” &c.

“Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen:
Like the leaves of the forest when autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay wither’d and strown.”

God not only got to Himself a complete victory, but His glory was increased amongst His people and amongst the heathen by reason of the wrath of His enemies. He made the wrath of man to praise Him. The proud boasting of Sennacherib and the attack of his mighty hosts called forth a conspicuous display of the power and majesty of God. His people saw it, and celebrated His praises. The heathen saw it, and “brought gifts unto the Lord to Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah, king of Judah: so that He was magnified in the sight of all nations.” Thus the Lord got Him honour upon Sennacherib. This is an illustration of the victory which He will achieve over all His foes. There are times when we stand dismayed before our enemies. The evils of our own hearts are more than a match for us. And, when we think of the foes that are in the world, and of the vast influence of the great leader of the evil forces, we feel how utterly inadequate we are to cope with such tremendous powers. But the Captain of our salvation is more than sufficient for us. He will turn the counsel of the enemies of His people to their own confusion. He will give us the victory over our foes. “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under thy feet shortly.” “We are more than conquerors through Him that hath loved us.” He will enable us to draw from our conflicts a strength and courage, a hatred of evil, and an enthusiasm for goodness which we could not otherwise have obtained. He will continue the conflict until He is victorious over every foe. He will even overrule the dark and malicious designs and workings of Satan and his allies for the promotion of His glory. After all the devil is but the vassal of the Lord our God. Unwittingly he is being used to promote the enthronement of the true and good. “Hallelujah, for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.”

3. He achieves complete victory with the utmost ease. Whatever the “angel,” messenger, which the Lord sent against the Assyrian host was, it is clear that the victory was achieved with the utmost ease. “Who can stand in Thy sight when once Thou art angry?”

“For the angel of death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers wax’d deadly and chill.
And their hearts but once heav’d, and for ever grew still.”

God rebukes His foes, and they are vanquished. So in the end He will subdue His foes with the most consummate ease. The foes of the good exist and are active, not because He is unable to subdue them, but because for wise and benevolent purposes He sees fit to allow them to resist Him and oppose His cause. But when He arises to judgment they will “melt like snow in His glance.” Wherefore let the people of God take courage and exult in their Champion.

III. The Champion of the good should be duly honoured.

1. His people should pay their vows to Him, “Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God all ye who are round about Him.” The latter clause makes it clear that this refers to His people. The twelve tribes used to pitch round about the tabernacle. And Jehovah was said to dwell in the midst of them. The vows which they had made to Him in the time of their danger and fear, they are exhorted to pay to Him now that deliverance has been wrought for them. In the conflicts of life men frequently vow that if deliverance from trouble, or extrication from difficulty, or victory over enemies be granted to them, they will consecrate themselves or their possessions more fully to God. But these vows are frequently forgotten when the peril is past. Thy vows are registered in heaven by the faithful God. Pay them. With shameful ingratitude thou hast far too long left them unpaid, pay them at once.

2. Offerings of devotion should be made to Him. “Bring presents unto Him that ought to be feared.” After the defeat of Sennacherib “many brought gifts unto the Lord to Jerusalem,” and “He was magnified in the sight of all nations.” God is worthy to receive the homage of all peoples. The day is coming when men shall esteem it a high privilege and pleasure to bring their richest treasures as an offering to Him.

Let us bring presents to Him who fighteth for us in all our battles. Man of wealth, dedicate thy possessions to Him. Man of genius, lay thy genius on the altar of Divine consecration. Let us each give to Him of our best and richest treasures.

3. The glory of victory should be ascribed to Him alone. In the case of the Assyrian hosts He alone encountered and vanquished them. “O sing unto the Lord a new song; for He hath done marvellous things: His right hand, and His holy arm, hath gotten Him the victory.” And the praise and honour were all ascribed to Him. In all the victories of His people He is the real Conqueror. If we come out of temptation victorious, it is because of the help of His grace. If in any measure we have been successful in our conflict with ignorance and sin and misery, we have been so by the power of His might. “Blessed be the Lord my rock, who teacheth my hands to war, and my fingers to fight.”

“He makes the glorious victory mine,
And His shall be the praise.”


1. Let the Church of God remember its obligation. “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might,” &c. (Ephesians 6:10-49.6.18).

2. Let the Church of God remember its Champion. “Through God we shall do valiantly; for He shall tread down our enemies.”


(Psalms 76:9.)


I. The character of the people of God. “The meek.” “A pious, patient one.”—Fuerst’s Lex.

1. Meekness is not mere easiness of disposition, or apathy. Absence of sensibility, whether physical, mental, or moral, is neither virtuous nor blessed.

2. Meekness is not cowardice or weakness. The truly meek man is as brave as he is calm, as courageous as he is patient.

3. Meekness has a God-ward and a man-ward aspect.

(1) Its attitude towards God is that of cheerful acquiescence in the appointments of His will and the arrangements of His providence. It does not criticise, or complain, or murmur because of His doings, but is humble and quiet before Him.

(2) Towards man, meekness manifests itself in patiently bearing with the defects and weaknesses of others, in willingness to endure insult and injury rather than do wrong, and in charitably adopting the most favourable construction on the action or course of conduct of any one, when two constructions are admissible. Meekness is “not overcome of evil, but overcomes evil with good.”

II. The peril of the people of God. They need some one “to save” them.

1. They have enemies.

2. These enemies are many and strong.

3. They art inadequate to cope with these enemies.

III. The Deliverer of the people of God. God is their vindicator and Saviour.

1. He punishes the proud oppressor.

2. He saves the oppressed meek. “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now will I arise, saith the Lord.”


(Psalms 76:10.)

Our text gives a special aspect of Divine Providence. Amid the confusion and suffering and sin of the present God reigns, so that the issue is His highest glory. The world has not been deserted by its Maker, although the mode of His continuous presence and working is inexplicable. But how wonderful that man’s freedom and responsibility should be inviolate, while his resistance is overcome, the fierce and swelling tide of his passions controlled, and the character of God illustrated and glorified. God’s spiritual Providence is an organ for bringing forth the largest possible amount of happiness and good, and for filling the universe with pure and lasting glory. From the first the world has been afflicted with sufferings and tumults, and the crimes which war against private and public good. There are times of social and political earthquake, when the abyss opens at our feet. But for the Divine Providence these phenomena must have been more distressing and terrific. Through God’s continuous and universal presence and acting, the misery springing from the sin and crime of men is immeasurably lessened. With this conviction, we gratefully say, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee,” &c.

I. The wrath of man not unfrequently defeats its own aims and accomplishes the Divine purpose. The cruel envy of Joseph’ brothers, Pharaoh’s crafty policy of imposing heavier and more grievous burdens on the Israelites, Haman’s ambition and his enmity against Mordecai, illustrate this. Opposite and conflicting interests, as it seems to us, are so balanced, violence is so checked, “vaulting ambition” so “overleaps itself,” that man’s wrath brings into greater clearness and glory the Divine power and wisdom and goodness.

II. The wrath of man is sometimes the instrument of the Divine will. Generally our sins become our scourge. Our “own wickedness corrects” us, &c. But specially. The sole object of the Babylonian monarch was the gratification of his ambition by conquest and spoil, yet he was “the rod” of God (Isaiah 10:5-23.10.7). This is frequently exemplified in the conduct of the first Napoleon—in our Chinese wars, indefensible, yet introducing the Gospel—in the Russian war, so unnecessary and so barren in anticipated results, yet abolishing serfdom, and preparing for the emancipation of religion from a bigotry as narrow and fierce as that of Rome—in the Indian Mutiny, which roused the Church to acknowledge India’s claim on her prayers and efforts—in the terrible conflict that raged in America, issuing in the freedom of the slave, and, despite appearances, in a higher and purer public opinion and morality—in the recent Franco-German war, tending to widen civil and religious liberty, as it limits and weakens the priestly power, everywhere and always the enemy of popular rights and of a free Gospel. With no fear of God, in the simple pursuit of their own ends, men are the instruments of the Divine Providence.

III. Man in his wrath accomplishes the Divine will when setting himself to resist and frustrate it. The design of God is fulfilled by direct attempts to defeat it (Acts 4:27-44.4.28, with Acts 4:10-44.4.11.) Persecution defeats itself. “Noble lives crowned by heroic deaths” are the best arguments and defences of any church. The assaults of infidelity result in the more triumphant vindication of the faith. Hume prophesied that Christianity could not survive the nineteenth century. Voltaire impiously said that one wise man would undo what twelve fools had accomplished. Julian will exterminate the faith; but he and all exclaim—“O Galilean! Thou hast conquered.” “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee.”

God rules in wisdom, righteousness, and love. The end of His rule, the triumph of purity and truth. The way to the end is not traceable by us; but the fact, the end is sure.

Courage, then. We are not the sport of fortune. It is not a great drama of chance which is now acted. A hand unseen is turning all to a great end, and blessed as great—the glory of God in the triumph of truth and holiness and love, and thus the complete and everlasting blessedness of man.

For God is not a despot, careless at what cost His purposes are realised, if only He triumph. He is a wise and beneficent Ruler; or rather a holy and wise and loving Father, employing His resources for the good of all His children, patient though they are rebellious and foolish, and only at last, if at last, banishing from the home they have forsaken and despised the obstinately perverse. Because God is so wise and holy and gracious, and withal so mighty, how hazardous to resist His will or despise His grace!—W. Y., B. A.


(Psalms 76:11.)

“Vow and pay unto the Lord your God, all ye who are round about Him.” “Round about Him. A description of His people, as the twelve tribes pitched round about the tabernacle, and the four and twenty elders were round about God’s throne.”—Ainsworth.

I. The great tendency of man to make religious vows in times of danger and trouble. The Jews did so when the Assyrians were before Jerusalem. Men are very prone to do so.

1. This is sometimes evil, because it indicates a disposition to bargain with God. To vow that we will serve God on condition that He will deliver or help as is wrong. He has an absolute claim upon our possessions and upon ourselves. See the meanness and selfishness of Jacob as manifested in his vow at Bethel (Genesis 28:20-1.28.22).

2. This is sometimes good. When trouble awakens thought, and thought leads to repentance, and the humble spirit vows to honour and serve God, such vows are excellent.

II. The great tendency of man to forget these vows when the trouble and danger are past. This is proverbial—

“When the devil was sick, the devil a monk would be;
When the devil was well, the devil a monk was he.”

“Thus we say, The river past, and God forgotten, to express with how mournful a frequency He whose assistance was invoked, it may have been earnestly, in the moment of peril, is remembered no more, so soon as by His help the danger has been surmounted.”—Archbishop Trench.

1. Vows begotten of fear are not likely to be kept when the cause of fear is removed.

2. Vows begotten of penitence or gratitude will be piously remembered and fulfilled.

III. The great sin of forgetting or failing to fulfil these vows.

1. There is ingratitude. Having received the benefit we ignore our obligation to the Benefactor.

2. There is unfaithfulness. Having promised we fail to perform that which we have promised. We lie unto the faithful God. Brother, thy vows are registered in heaven. Pay them. Pay them fully, heartily, at once.

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Psalms 76". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.