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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 24

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2987. B.C. 1017.

This Psalm is generally thought to have been composed by David, upon that solemn occasion of bringing the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom, into the tabernacle which David had built for it, 2 Samuel 6:0 . Wherein he hath a further prospect to the temple, which he earnestly desired and intended to build. Moreover because the tabernacle, and temple, and ark, were manifest types of Christ, and of his church, and of the place and state of heavenly glory, David extended his thoughts to them also; or, at least, the Holy Ghost designed to comprehend them under these typical expressions. Bishop Lowth, in his twenty-seventh lecture, has beautifully delineated the plan of this Psalm. The ark of God is supposed to be moving in a grand and solemn procession of the whole Israelitish nation toward the place of its future residence on mount Sion. See 1 Chronicles 15:0 . On ascending the mountain the Psalm is sung, declaring, Psalms 24:1 , Psalms 24:2 , The sovereignty of Jehovah over all the earth; describing, Psalms 24:3-6 , What the character ought to be of that people whom he had more peculiarly selected to serve him in the house where his glory was to dwell; and of which, Psalms 24:7-10 , it was now about to take possession. All this is by us to be applied to the Christian Church, and the ascension of our Lord into heaven; for which reason this Psalm is one of those appointed to be used on Ascension Day.

Verse 1

Psalms 24:1. The earth is the Lord’s The psalmist begins with a representation of God’s dominion over this world in general, and his providential presence in every part of it. After which follows a declaration of his special presence in his tabernacle. And the fulness thereof All the creatures are the Lord’s, and especially the inhabitants wherewith the earth is replenished. God’s general dominion over, and interest in, all persons and places, seem to be here premised and asserted, 1st, To show his right to choose any nation that he pleased to be his peculiar people: 2d, To set forth his singular kindness and mercy to Israel, whom he chose out of all the nations of the world to be near to him, and to have a special acquaintance with him, although, otherwise, he had no other relation to them than what he had to all mankind, namely, that of Creator and Governor: and, 3d, To demonstrate the excellence of the Jewish religion above all others, because the God whom they served was the God and Maker of the world, whereas the gods of the Gentiles were but dumb and deaf idols, and esteemed even by themselves to be but local and confined deities.

Verse 2

Psalms 24:2. For he hath founded it Justly have I said, that the earth is the Lord’s, for he made it, and laid the foundation of it, and that in a wonderful manner; upon the seas By the seas and floods he means the whole collection of waters, as well the sea and rivers running into it as that great abyss of waters which is contained in the bowels of the earth. This is here mentioned as an evidence of God’s wise and gracious providence, that he hath erected so vast a building upon so weak a foundation as the waters are: for “the waters which, at the creation, and again at the deluge, overspread all things, being, by the power of God, driven down into the great deep, and there confined, the earth was, in a wonderful manner, constructed and established as a kind of circular arch upon, or over them.” Horne.

Verse 3

Psalms 24:3. Who shall ascend, &c. Dr. Hammond infers from the composition of this Psalm, that it was intended to be sung by two companies or choirs, the one answering the other. To strengthen his conjecture that it was actually performed so, he observes, that upon very solemn occasions (and such this was) it was usual with the Jews to separate themselves, to divide into two companies, one standing on one side, and the other on the other. Thus, so long ago as Moses’s time, six tribes stood on mount Gerizim, and the other six on the opposite mount, Ebel. And Nehemiah mentions two companies of them that gave thanks, Nehemiah 12:31, whereof one went to the right hand, Nehemiah 12:38, and the other over against them, Nehemiah 12:40. In like manner he thinks, at the solemn placing of the ark in Zion, the two choirs of singers might stand, one on one side of the tabernacle, and the other on the other, and repeat this Psalm. Dr. Delaney, improving on this idea, imagines that the king began the concert “with a solemn and sonorous recitative” of the first verse. The chorus, he thinks, was then divided, and each sung in their turns, both joining in the close, For he hath founded it upon the seas, &c. This part of the music, he supposes, lasted till the procession reached the foot of the hill of Sion, and that then the king stepped forth, and began in a solemn tone, Who shall ascend, &c. Then the first chorus of singers answered, Even he that hath clean hands, &c. The second chorus, That hath not lift up, &c., to the end of the 6th verse. “Let this part of the music,” says he, “be supposed to have lasted till they reached the gates of the city. Then the king began again in that most sublime and heavenly strain, Lift up your heads, O ye gates, &c., which all repeated in chorus. The persons appointed to keep the gates (or, perhaps, the matrons of Jerusalem, meeting David there, as they did Saul, upon his return from the conquest of the Philistines, 1 Samuel 18:0.) are supposed next to have sung, Who is the king of glory? and the first and second chorus to have answered, It is the Lord, strong and mighty, &c. And now let us suppose the instruments to take up the same airs, (the king, the princes, and the matrons moving to the measure,) and to continue them to the gates of the court of the tabernacle: then let the king again begin: Lift up your heads, O ye gates, &c., and be followed and answered as before: all closing instruments sounding, chorus singing, people shouting He is the King of glory. How others may think upon the point,” adds he, “I cannot say, (nor pretend to describe,) but for my own part I have no notion of hearing, or of any man’s having seen or heard, any thing so great, so solemn, so celestial, on this side the gates of heaven.” Leaving the reader to judge of this hypothesis as it shall appear to him, we return to the consideration of some of the expressions occurring in the verses thus referred to. The hill of the Lord, mentioned in this verse, (Psalms 24:3,) was Sion, or Moriah, the place of God’s sanctuary and special presence. The psalmist, having asserted and proved God’s dominion over all mankind, and consequently their obligation to worship and serve him, now proposes a most necessary and important question, especially in those times, when all nations, except Israel, were in a state of deep ignorance and error respecting it, namely, where, and how, and by whom, God would be served, and his favour and blessing might be enjoyed. The place is here mentioned, and the qualification of the persons described in the following verses. Who shall stand To minister before him. Standing is the posture of ministers or servants. Who shall serve God with acceptance? In his holy place? The place he hath sanctified for his service.

Verse 4

Psalms 24:4. He that hath clean hands Whose actions and conversation are holy and unblameable. It is here very observable that the character of a right and acceptable worshipper of God is not taken from his nation and relation to Abraham; nor from any or all of those costly and laborious rites and ceremonies of the law in which the generality of the Israelites placed their confidence, but from moral and spiritual duties, which most of them grossly neglected. And a pure heart Purged from hypocrisy, and corrupt desires and designs, and careful to approve itself to God, as well as men, ordering a man’s very thoughts, intentions, and affections, according to God’s word. This is fitly added, because a man may keep his hands clean, in a good measure, from mere worldly motives, and without any respect to God, and even with an evil design. Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity Who doth not worship idols, often called vanities in Scripture, and who doth not value or desire the vain things of this life, such as honour, riches, pleasures; but who makes God his portion. And this, also, is very fitly mentioned as essential to the character of a truly good man, because, hereby he is distinguished from all carnal and ungodly men whatsoever, whose inseparable property it is, according to both the Old and New Testament, to love vanity, and to set their hearts chiefly upon the things of this world. Whereas good men are everywhere described to be such as seek their happiness in God, and prize and desire his favour and service infinitely more than all the enjoyments or this life; yea, even than life itself. Nor sworn deceitfully Hebrew, למרמה , lemirmah, unto, or with deceit, that is, falsely, or with a purpose of deceiving others thereby. Under this negative the contrary affirmative is included, namely, that he is one who, when he is called to swear, doth swear in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness, Jeremiah 4:2.

Verse 5

Psalms 24:5. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord That is, the blessings which God hath promised to his people, namely, grace and glory, and all other good things, Psalms 84:11. He, and only he, shall be truly blessed. And righteousness The fruit or reward of his righteousness, the work being often put for the reward of it: or kindness, or mercy, and those benefits which flow therefrom.

Verse 6

Psalms 24:6. This is the generation of them that seek him The true progeny, which God regards, that make it their care and study to know him, and his mind and will, and to please and serve him. Whereby he reflects upon them who boasted of, and trusted in, their carnal descent from Abraham and the other patriarchs. That seek thy face, O Jacob That is, O God of Jacob, that seek thy grace and favour, often called God’s face. Such ought the people to be who seek the presence of God, and approach to worship him in the sanctuary. And such ought they to be who celebrate the ascension of the Redeemer, and hope, one day, to follow him into those happy mansions which he is gone before to prepare for them.

Verse 7

Psalms 24:7. Lift up your heads, O ye gates The questions, Who shall ascend God’s hill, namely, to worship? and, Who shall stand in his holy place, to minister before and serve him? being answered, the psalmist proceeds to speak next of the introduction of the presence of him into that place whom they were to worship, namely, the great and glorious Jehovah. For what would it signify that they were prepared to worship, if HE whom they were to worship were not present to accept and bless his worshippers? David speaks here of the gates and doors, either, 1st, Of his royal city Zion, through which the ark was now to pass to the tabernacle which he had built for it. And he calls these doors everlasting, either on account of the durableness of the matter of which they were made; or from his desires and hopes that God would make them everlasting, or of long continuance, because he loved the gates of Zion, Psalms 87:2. Or, he speaks, 2d, Of the gates of the court of the tabernacle, or of the tabernacle itself, into which the ark, the emblem of the divine presence, was now to be brought. Or, 3d, When composing this Psalm, he might look forward in a spirit of prophecy to the temple, beholding it as already built, and accordingly might address his speech to the gates and doors of it, terming them everlasting, not so much because they were made of strong and durable materials, as in opposition to those of the tabernacle, which were removed from place to place; whereas the temple and its doors were constantly fixed in one place; and, if the sins of Israel had not hindered, would have abode there for ever, that is, as long as the Mosaic dispensation lasted, or until the coming of the Messiah, as the phrase, for ever, is very commonly taken in the Old Testament. These gates he bids lift up their heads, or tops, by allusion to those gates which have a portcullis, the head of which, when it is lifted up, rises conspicuous above the gates, and accordingly makes the entrance higher, and more magnificent. But though this be the literal sense of the place, yet it has also a mystical sense, and that too designed by the Holy Ghost. And as the temple was a type of Christ, and of his church, and of heaven itself; so this place may also contain a representation, either of Christ’s entrance into his church, or into the hearts of his faithful people, who are here commanded to set open their hearts and souls for his reception: or, of his ascension into heaven, where the saints, or angels, are poetically introduced as preparing the way, and opening the heavenly gates to receive their Lord and King, returning to his royal habitation with triumph and glory. The King of glory The glorious King Jehovah, who resided in the Shechinah, or glory, over the ark, the symbol of his presence, and between the cherubim. Or, the Messiah, the King of Israel, and of his church, called the King, or Lord of glory, 1 Corinthians 2:8; James 2:1, both for that glory which is inherent in him, and that which is purchased by him for his members.

Verse 8

Psalms 24:8 . Who is the King of glory? What is the cause of this imperious call? And why? Or, for whom must those gates be opened in so solemn and extraordinary a manner? The answer is, The Lord strong and mighty, &c. As if he had said, He is no ordinary person, no other than Jehovah, who hath given so many proofs of his almightiness, who hath subdued all his enemies, and is now returned in triumph.

Verses 9-10

Psalms 24:9-10. Lift up your heads, &c. The same verse is repeated again, to awaken the dulness of mankind, who are so hardly brought to a serious preparation for such solemnities; and to signify the great importance of the matter contained under these expressions. The Lord of hosts Under whose command are all the hosts of heaven and earth, angels and men, and all other creatures. The reader will be pleased to see Dr. Horne’s application of these verses to the ascension of our Lord. “We must now,” says he, “form to ourselves an idea of the Lord of glory, after his resurrection from the dead, making his entry into the eternal temple in heaven; as of old, by the symbol of his presence, he took possession of that figurative and temporary structure which once stood upon the hill of Sion. We are to conceive him gradually rising from mount Olivet into the air, taking the clouds for his chariot, and ascending up on high; while some of the angels, like the Levites in procession, attendant on the triumphant Messiah, in the day of his power, demand that those everlasting gates and doors, hitherto shut and barred against the race of Adam, should be thrown open, for his admission into the realms of bliss. Lift up your heads, &c. On hearing this voice of jubilee and exultation from the earth, the abode of misery and sorrow, the rest of the angels, astonished at the thought of a man claiming a right of entrance into their happy regions, ask, from within, like the Levites in the temple, Who is this King of glory? To which question the attendant angels answer, in a strain of joy and triumph and let the church of the redeemed answer with them The Lord strong and mighty, &c. The LORD JESUS, victorious over sin, death, and hell. Therefore we say, and with holy transport we repeat it, Lift up your heads, &c. And if any ask, Who is the King of glory? to heaven and earth we proclaim aloud, THE LORD OF HOSTS, the all-conquering MESSIAH, head over every creature, the leader of the armies of JEHOVAH, he is the King of glory. Even so, glory be to thee, O Lord most high! Amen. Hallelujah.”

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 24". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-24.html. 1857.
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