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Bible Commentaries

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 65


A.M. 2984. B.C. 1020.

The latter part of this excellent Psalm, or song of praise, renders it probable that it was composed after some great drought, which had brought, or threatened to bring, a dearth upon the land; and some think it relates to the three years’ famine which took place after the rebellion of Absalom, mentioned 2 Samuel 21:0 .; which being removed by plentiful showers of rain, they suppose that the psalmist gives God public thanks in this Psalm for sending those showers so seasonably. “I can find nothing,” says Bishop Patrick, “more probable than this.” And Dr. Delaney says, “It is on all hands agreed to have been composed on the ceasing of that calamity.” On whatever occasion it was written, it sets forth in a very striking manner the power and goodness of God, both in the kingdom of grace, and in that of providence.

(1,) The psalmist praises God for hearing prayer, pardoning sin, satisfying and protecting his people, 1-5.

(2,) For fixing the mountains, calming the sea, preserving the regular succession of day and night, and making the earth fruitful, 6-13. Some think the latter part of it has a spiritual sense, significative of the preaching of the gospel by the apostles, who converted the heathen to the faith of Christ, and rendered them fruitful in holy tempers, words, and works, to the praise and glory of God.

Verse 1

Psalms 65:1. Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Zion Waits in expectation of the mercy desired; waits till it arrives, that it may be received with thankfulness at its first approach. For, when God is coming toward us with his favours, we must go forth to meet him with our praises. Praise waits with an entire satisfaction in thy holy will, and in dependance on thy mercy. When we stand ready in every thing to give thanks, then praise waits for God. Hebrew, לךְ דמיה תהלה , lecha dumijah tehillah, praise is silent unto thee, as wanting words to express thy great goodness, and being struck with silent admiration of it. As there are holy groanings in prayer, which cannot be uttered, so there are holy adorations in praise which cannot be expressed, and yet shall be accepted by Him who searcheth the heart, and knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit. Our praise is silent, that the praises of the blessed angels, that excel in strength, may be heard. Before thee (thus the Chaldee) praise is reputed as silence. So far is God exalted above all our blessing and praise. Praise is due to God from all the world; but it waits for him in Sion only, in his church among his people; all his works praise him, that is, they minister matter for praise, but only his saints bless him by actual adorations. Unto thee shall the vow be performed The sacrifices and thank-offerings, which thy people vowed unto thee, in the time of their danger, when they were supplicating deliverance, and other blessings, at thy hands, shall be faithfully paid. We shall not be accepted in our thanksgivings to God for the mercies we have received, unless we make conscience of paying the vows which we made when we were in pursuit of these mercies; for better is it not to vow than to vow and not to pay.

Verses 2-3

Psalms 65:2-19.65.3. O thou that hearest prayer That usest and delightest to hear and answer the prayers of thy people in Zion; which he justly mentions as one of the chiefest of God’s favours vouchsafed to his church; unto thee shall all flesh come Men of all sorts and nations, who were allured by this and other singular benefits, to unite themselves to the Jewish Church, according to Solomon’s prediction, 1 Kings 8:41-11.8.43. Or, rather, this may be considered as a tacit prediction of the conversion of the Gentiles, namely, that on account of God’s mercy in hearing the prayers of his people, all mankind, out of every nation, should come and make their supplications before him in his church, when called by his gospel. And the chief subject of the prayers made by all flesh to God being the forgiveness of sin, in order to this it is here confessed, Iniquities prevail against me My iniquities are so many and so great, that on account of them thou mightest justly reject my prayers, and destroy my person; they are a burden too heavy for me; but thou shalt purge them away This is another glorious privilege granted to thy people, that, in answer to their prayers, thou dost graciously pardon and take away their sins.

Verse 4

Psalms 65:4. Blessed is the man The particular person, how poor and mean soever; whom thou choosest To be one of thy peculiar people; and causest That is, permittest and commandest; and by the disposal of thy providence, and the influence of thy grace, inclinest and enablest, to approach unto thee To draw near to thee in thy house and ordinances, by prayer and praise, and other acts of communion with thee. That he may dwell in thy courts In the courts of thy house; may frequently resort thither, and wait upon thee there, at all opportunities, among thy people. He mentions courts, because the people were permitted to go no further into God’s house. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house We shall enjoy solid satisfaction, such as all men desire, but which only thy true and genuine people obtain, in those spiritual and everlasting blessings there conferred upon them, namely, thy grace, and favour, and fellowship with thee. Observe, reader! remission of sins, renovation of heart and life, the knowledge of God and of ourselves, and of our duty and true interest, joy and peace through believing, with well-grounded hopes of eternal life, are the blessings included in the goodness of God’s house, or holy temple, which is here mentioned, in comparison of which all the enjoyments of this world are but dross and dung.

Verse 5

Psalms 65:5. By terrible things, &c. Or, in a terrible manner; that is, so as to strike thy people with a holy awe and reverence of thee, and of thy judgments, and thine enemies with dread and horror. The Chaldee renders the word, נוראת , noraoth, here used, in a wonderful manner. This may be understood of the rebukes which God, in his providence, sometimes gives to his own people; he often answers them by wonderful and terrible events, for the awakening and quickening of them; but always in righteousness; he neither doth them any wrong, nor intends them any hurt; for even then he is the God of their salvation. But it is rather to be understood of his judgments upon their enemies; God answers his people’s prayers by the destructions made for their sakes among those who reject his truth; and the recompense which he renders to their proud oppressors as a righteous God, the God to whom vengeance belongs, and the God that protects and saves his people. The clause may be read, by wonderful things wilt thou answer us; things which are very surprising, and which we looked not for, Isaiah 64:3. Or by things which strike an awe upon us. “The ancient church here foretels,” says Dr. Horne, “that God would answer her prayers for the coming of the Messiah, by wonderful things in righteousness, which were brought to pass by the death and the resurrection of Christ, the overthrow of idolatry, and the conversion of the nations.” Some again, by these wonderful things, understand the works of God’s providence mentioned in the following verses; “which, however they may be disregarded by us, through our familiarity with them, are indeed most stupendous, amazing, and awful; such as will always engage the inquiry and excite the wonder of the most profound philosophers; but will for ever surpass their comprehension.” See Dodd. Who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth Of all thy saints all the world over, and not only of those who are of the seed of Israel. For he is the God of the Gentiles as well as of the Jews; the confidence of them that are afar off from his holy temple, that dwell in the islands of the Gentiles, or that are in distress upon the sea. They trust in him, and cry to him when they are at their wit’s end. Nor is there any other in whom they can safely trust, or to whom they can have recourse with any prospect of relief. For this God of our salvation is the only object of a safe and undeceiving confidence; there is no other person or thing in the world that any man living can trust to, without fear or certainty of disappointment.

Verses 6-7

Psalms 65:6-19.65.7. Which setteth fast the mountains That they are not overthrown by floods, or earthquakes, or other natural causes; which stability they have only from God’s preserving providence, which alone sustains all persons and things; being girded with power Being able to do it, and that with infinite ease, having only to speak and it is done. Which stillest the noise of the sea When it is very tempestuous, and threatens to swallow up ships and men that are in it, or to overflow the earth. And the tumults of the people As he stills the natural, so he also quiets the metaphorical seas, tumultuous and unruly mobs and insurrections of people, often represented under this emblem in the prophetical writings.

Verse 8

Psalms 65:8. They also that dwell in the uttermost parts Namely, of the earth; are afraid at thy tokens Hebrew, מאותתיךְ , meothotheicha, at thy signs, at the great and terrible judgments which thou inflictest upon wicked men, and particularly on the enemies of thy people. Or rather, at such occurrences as extraordinary thunders, lightnings, and meteors in the air, comets in the heavens, or volcanic eruptions and earthquakes on the earth; all which are the works of God, whatever secondary causes he may use to produce them. As if he had said, The remotest and most barbarous people are struck with the dread of thee, when thou alarmest them with any unusual tokens of thy power. Thou makest the out goings of the morning and evening to rejoice The successive courses of the morning and evening, or of the sun and moon, which go forth at those times, the one bringing the light of the morning, and the other the shades of the evening, and both which are said poetically to rejoice, because they give men occasion of rejoicing. For as it is God that scatters the light of the morning, and draws the curtains of the evening, so he does both in favour to man. And how contrary soever light and darkness are to each other, or how inviolable soever the partition between them may be, both are equally welcome to the world in their season. And it is hard to say which is more welcome to us, the light of the morning, which befriends the business of the day, or the shadows of the evening, which befriend the repose of the night. Doth the watchman wait for the morning? So doth the hireling earnestly desire the shadow. Thus, this whole verse speaks of the natural works of God; the former clause of such as are extraordinary and terrible, the latter of such as are ordinary and delightful.

Verses 9-10

Psalms 65:9-19.65.10. Thou visitest In mercy, or with thy favour, the earth, and waterest it The whole earth, which is full of thy bounty. So understood, he continues to speak of the general providence of God over all people. Or, he may mean, Thou visitest the land Namely, the land of Israel; and so he proceeds, from God’s general providence over all places and nations, to his particular and special providence over his people in the land of Canaan, whereof he gives one eminent and considerable instance, namely, his giving them rain and fruitful seasons, and that after a time of drought and scarcity, to which, it is not improbably supposed, this Psalm refers. And this may be the particular occasion, for which the psalmist said, that praise waited for God in Zion. Thou enrichest it with the river of God With rain, which he calls a river for his plenty, and the river of God, because it is of his immediate providing; which is full of water The clouds, like a vast river, are never exhausted, or, if they empty themselves upon the earth, they are soon and easily replenished again. Thou preparest them corn By these means thou causest the earth to bring forth and ripen corn for its inhabitants; when thou hast so provided for it Hebrew, כן תכינה , cheen techineah, hast so ordered, disposed, or prepared it; namely, the earth by thus watering it, which would otherwise be hard and barren. Thou settlest the furrows thereof Which are turned up by the plough or spade. Or, thou bringest them down, as נחת , nachath, rather signifies: for the rain dissolves the high and hard clods of the earth. Thou blessest the springing thereof When all is done, the fruitfulness of the earth must not be ascribed to the rain or sun, or any second causes, but to thy blessing alone.

Verses 11-12

Psalms 65:11-19.65.12. Thou crownest the year with thy goodness Thou, by thy powerful goodness, dost enrich and adorn all the seasons of the year with their proper fruits and blessings. And thy paths Either, 1st, Thy clouds, (as the word מעגליךְ , is rendered in the Liturgy version,) upon which God is frequently said to walk or ride, and which drop fatness upon the earth; or the outgoings, or ways of the divine goodness. Wherever God goes, speaking after the manner of men, or works, he leaves the tokens of his mercy behind him, he dispenses rich and salutary blessings, and thus makes his paths to shine after him. Mudge renders this verse, Thou encirclest the year with thy richness, and the tracks of thy wheels drop fatness. God is considered, he thinks, in his chariot, riding round the earth, and from that chariot, that is, the clouds, everywhere distilling fatness, fertility, and increase. They God’s paths, the clouds; drop upon the pastures of the wilderness And not only upon the pastures of the inhabited land. The deserts, which man takes no care of, and receives no profit from, yet are under the care of the divine providence; and the produce of them redounds to the glory of God, as the great Benefactor of the whole creation. For hereby they are furnished with food for wild beasts, which, being God’s creatures, he thus takes care of and provides for. And the little hills He intends chiefly the hills of Canaan, which, for the generality of them, were but small, if compared with the great and high mountains which are in divers parts of the world. He mentions the hills, because, being most dry and parched with the sun, they most need, and are most benefited by the rain; rejoice on every side That is, all around, as being clothed with verdure, enamelled with flowers, and rendered fertile for the use of man and beasts. Nothing can be more elegant and poetical than the personifying of the hills, the pastures, and valleys in this and the following verse. But, indeed, as Dr. Delaney justly observes, this whole paragraph, from the 9th verse to the 13th, is “the most rapturous, truly poetic, and natural image of joy that imagination can form.” The reader of taste cannot but see this in any translation of it, however simple. “When the divine poet had seen the showers falling from heaven, and Jordan overflowing his banks, all the consequent blessings were that moment present to his quick, poetic sight, and he paints them accordingly.”

Verse 13

Psalms 65:13. The pastures Which were bare before; are clothed with flocks As they are with grass. They are so well stocked that they seem covered over with sheep and cattle, feeding or resting in them; the valleys also are covered with corn So that the face of the earth cannot be seen for the abundance of it. He mentions valleys, or low grounds, as being generally most fruitful, but does not intend to exclude other places. Such are some of the good effects of these refreshing, fertilizing rains. They shout for joy: they also sing They are abundantly satisfied with thy goodness, and, in their manner, sing forth the praises, and declare the goodness of their great Creator and Benefactor.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 65". Benson's Commentary. 1857.