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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 68

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


A.M. 2962. B.C. 1042.

This Psalm is generally thought to have been composed by David, to be sung, with some others, on that festive and joyful occasion, the removal of the ark from the house of Obed-edom to the tent pitched for it in Zion. Accordingly the first words of it are the same that Moses appointed to be used on such occasions, Numbers 10:35 ; and the following verses are supposed to pursue the same subject, and the several parts of it to be suited to the several divisions of the march, while the whole of it is well adapted to so sacred and joyful a solemnity, as will appear by a careful perusal and examination of it. But because David knew that both himself and the ark were types of Christ, and that the church of Israel was a type of the catholic church, consisting of Jews and Gentiles, and that the legal administrations were types of those of the gospel; he, therefore, by the Spirit of prophecy, looked through the types to the great mysteries of Christ’s resurrection and ascension, to the special privileges of the Christian Church, and the conversion of the Gentiles; and he intermixes passages which immediately belong to these things; although the words be so ordered, that they carry a manifest allusion to the present actions, and may be applied to them, in a secondary sense. He first prays against God’s enemies, and for his people, Psalms 68:1-3 . Then praises God for his greatness and goodness, Psalms 68:4-6 . For his wonderful works, Psalms 68:7-14 . For his special presence in his church, Psalms 68:15-17 . The ascension of Christ, and the salvation of his people, Psalms 68:18-20 . His victories over his enemies, and favours to his church, Psalms 68:21-28 . The accession of the Gentiles to the church, Psalms 68:29-31 . An awful acknowledgment of the glory and grace of God, Psalms 68:32-35 .

Verses 1-3

Psalms 68:1-3. Let God arise, &c. As God was in a peculiar manner present in the ark, and as his presence was the great security of the Israelitish nation from the dangers of the wilderness, and the power of their enemies, Moses addressed his prayer to him in these words whenever the ark was taken up for their several marches: see Numbers 10:35. And in these same words the singers began, when, at the command of David, the Levites first took up the ark on their shoulders to carry it from the house of Obed-edom to Zion. There is, indeed, this little difference between the passage in Numbers and this of the Psalm, that the first word of the former in the Hebrew is in the imperative mood, קומה , kumah, Let God arise, whereas here the word is in the future tense, and is literally rendered, God shall, or will, arise. And, in like manner, all the clauses of this and the next two verses are expressed in the same tense, as if they were a prediction of what was to come; his enemies shall be scattered those that hate him shall flee, &c. God’s enemies, it must be observed, are also the enemies of his people, and they are therefore said to hate him, because they hate them, and because they hate his laws and government, and his holy image and nature; the carnal mind which is in them, being enmity against him, and not subject to his law, neither, indeed, can it be subject thereto. As smoke is driven away Which, though it rises from the earth in black and tremendous clouds, is soon scattered and dispersed by the wind; so drive them away Or, so they shall be driven away, shall be dispersed by a force which, notwithstanding their threatening aspect, they are utterly unable to resist. And as wax melteth before the fire Which, though to appearance it be of a firm and solid consistence, yet, when brought to the fire, is soon dissolved, and makes no resistance; so let the wicked perish, &c. And so they shall perish when the Lord is revealed from heaven, with his mighty angels, in flaming fire. But let the righteous be glad, &c. For God’s gracious appearance in their behalf, and for his settled presence with them.

Verse 4

Psalms 68:4. Sing unto God, &c. “The prophet here exhorts the people of God to magnify with Psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, the eternal and incommunicable name of Him who was, and is, and is to come; who, deriving being from none, gives it to all, and who, as Redeemer of his people, is exalted above the heavens, and all the powers therein, above the gods of the nations; is acknowledged and glorified by saints and angels; feared and trembled at by ungodly men and evil spirits.” Horne. Extol him, &c. Hebrew, cast up, or prepare the way, for him that rideth through the deserts, or, that did ride in the desert, namely, manifested his presence between the cherubim upon the mercy-seat of the ark, when it was carried through the wilderness; or marched along with it in the cloudy pillar. Or, that now rideth, as in the desert, that is, whose ark, with which he is present, is now carried from place to place, as it was in the desert. This construction is most agreeable to the common usage of the original words here employed, סלו , sollu, rendered extol, properly meaning, to cast up, or prepare a way; and ערבות , gnaraboth, translated heavens, generally signifying the deserts, or plain fields. By his name Jah Whereby he is known and distinguished from all false gods, Jah being, no doubt, an abbreviation of the name Jehovah, which the heathen pronounced Jao. And rejoice before him Before the ark, with which he is present. Thus David is said to have danced before the Lord on this occasion.

Verses 5-6

Psalms 68:5-6. A father of the fatherless He now proceeds to mention some of the reasons for which God is to be praised. Of these this is one, that he is the patron of such as are injured and oppressed, and have not power to help themselves; is God in his holy habitation In his tabernacle, or rather, in heaven. Though he is in a peculiar manner present and dwells there, yet the eyes of his fatherly providence and care run to and fro through the earth, to observe and help his people when they are in distress. God setteth the solitary Hebrew, יחדים , jechidim, such as are left single and alone, and are destitute of help; in families Hebrew, he causeth them to sit down in houses: he blesseth them with partners in life, and a posterity, and with the safe and comfortable enjoyment of the social blessings attending it. He bringeth out those which were bound, &c. He setteth captives and prisoners at liberty, as he did the Israelites. But the rebellious Those that rebel against God, as the Egyptians did; dwell in a dry land Are deprived of all true comfort, and plagued with manifold calamities. This part of the Psalm, from Psa 68:1 to Psalms 68:6, inclusive, Dr. Chandler supposes to have been sung just as the Levites took up the ark on their shoulders: and certainly it was a proper exordium to this great solemnity: containing “a solemn acknowledgment of God, a devout prayer for the dispersion of his enemies, and an exhortation to his people to rejoice before him, and to celebrate his praises, who guided their forefathers in the desert; when he redeemed them from Egyptian bondage, avenged them of their enemies, enlarged them into families, enriched them with the spoils of Egypt, and condemned their oppressors to poverty, disgrace, and misery.”

Verses 7-8

Psalms 68:7-8. O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people In the cloudy pillar, as their captain, leading them out of Egypt; the earth shook Or, trembled, that is, either the inhabitants of those parts of the earth, according to Exodus 15:14; or the earth itself, through an earthquake, as a token of God’s dreadful presence, as seems to be intimated, Psalms 114:5-7. The heavens also dropped Dissolved into showers, as the consequence of those mighty thunders and lightnings, which also bespoke his presence, and of the thick cloud that covered the mount. Even Sinai itself, &c. Shook, or dropped, for either verb may be supplied from the former clause, there being no verb in the Hebrew text of this clause. Sinai was even melted, or dissolved with fear. It is a poetical representation of the terribleness of God’s appearance. Dr. Chandler supposes that this part of the Psalm, from Psa 68:7 to the 14th, was sung just as the procession began, and the Levites moved along with the ark, placed by its staves on their shoulders.

Verse 9

Psalms 68:9. Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, &c. Hebrew, נדבות , גשׁם , geshem nedaboth, a rain of spontaneousness, or liberality. The Seventy render it, βροχην εκουσιον , a spontaneous, voluntary, or free rain. As we do not read of any showers of rain that fell during the continuance of the Israelites in the wilderness, except that before mentioned on Sinai, the people being supplied with water, partly from wells which they found, and partly by miracle from rocks, Dr. Chandler thinks the plentiful rain here mentioned “relates to the manna and the quails, which were rained down on them from heaven.” Thus God promised, I will rain bread from heaven for you, Exodus 16:4; and the psalmist observes, Psalms 68:23-24; Psalms 68:27, He opened the doors of heaven, and rained down manna upon them to eat, and gave them of the corn of heaven. He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and feathered fowls as the sand of the sea. “This,” he thinks, “may truly be called a kind of spontaneous shower; as both the manna and the quails offered themselves to their hands without any pains or labour in the people to procure them. By this shower, says the sacred writer, thou didst confirm thine inheritance, (see Deuteronomy 32:9;) that is, didst recruit and refresh thy people; for they greatly needed it, as they were weary; that is, tired, and almost worn out with hunger, the hardships of which they bore with great impatience and murmuring.” There is, however, one great objection to this interpretation of the passage. It does not seem to comport with the next verse, which speaks of the congregation of Israel as dwelling in the inheritance refreshed by this rain, which inheritance was certainly the land of Canaan. In this they had dwelt for many ages when David wrote this Psalm, and though they had sometimes been chastised with drought, yet they had often witnessed the descent of abundant rains upon their country, which were the more necessary and desirable, because it was hilly and of a dry soil, and not watered, like Egypt, by the overflowings of a great river. See Deuteronomy 11:10-11.

Verse 10

Psalms 68:10. Thy congregation Thy people Israel, who are all united in one body, under thee their head and governor. It is true, the word חיה , chajab, here rendered congregation, primarily signifies life, living creature, or animal, and is often put for beast, and wild beast; but, as the best lexicographers observe, it also frequently means cœtus, or caterva, a company or troop of men, as in Psa 68:30 of this chapter, and 2 Samuel 23:13, compared with 1 Chronicles 11:15, and Psalms 74:19. But, retaining the proper signification of the word, the clause may be rendered, as it is by the LXX., τα ζωα σου , thy living creatures, or thy flock, that is, thy people, the sheep of thy pasture, hath dwelt therein, ישׁבו בה , jashebu bah, have dwelt in it, namely, in the inheritance mentioned in the preceding verse, to which the preposition, with the feminine affix, בה , in it, can only properly refer. God often compares himself to a shepherd, and his people to sheep; and he is particularly said to have led his people like a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron, Psalms 77:20, namely, in the wilderness; and consequently he may be here said to have brought his sheep into, and to have made them dwell in, Canaan, as in a green and good pasture; see Psalms 23:0., where God speaks of his people under this very metaphor. This interpretation, evidently adopted by our translators, seems much more easy and natural, and more agreeable to the Hebrew text, than that of Dr. Chandler and some others, who would render the word above mentioned, (which we translate thy flock, or thy congregation,) thy food, or the support of thy life; and who thus interpret the clause: thy food, or, as to thy food, the food which thou, O God, gavest them, they dwelt in the midst of it: which is surely a very unnatural and forced exposition. Thou hast prepared of thy goodness, &c. Dr. Chandler, in consistency with his above-mentioned interpretation of the preceding clause, understands this of the provision made miraculously by God for his people in the wilderness: but, according to our translation, it speaks of the provision made for them in Canaan; the good land which God prepared for his people, by expelling the old inhabitants, sending frequently refreshing and fertilizing rains upon it, making it fruitful by his special blessing, and furnishing it with all sorts of provisions: and all this of his goodness, that is, by his free, unmerited, and singular goodness: and that both as to the cause and measure of this preparation. God did it; not for their righteousness, as he often told them, but of his mere mercy; and he increased the fruits of the earth very wonderfully, that they might be sufficient for the supply of such a numerous people, which, without his extraordinary blessing, would not have been the case, as appears by the state of that land at this day, which is well known to be very barren. For the poor Thy people of Israel, whom he calls poor, partly to repress that pride and arrogance to which they were exceedingly prone, and to remind them of their entire dependance on God for all they had or hoped for; and partly because they really were poor when God undertook the conduct of them into Canaan, and such they would have been still if God had not provided for them in a singular manner.

Verse 11

Psalms 68:11. The Lord gave the word The matter of the word, or discourse here following. He put this triumphal song into the mouths of his people; he gave them those successes and victories which are here celebrated. Or he gave the matter or thing which was published. Having celebrated the goodness of God, which fed them in, and led them through, the wilderness, conducted them into Canaan, watered and refreshed the land with plentiful showers, and rendered it fruitful, he now proceeds to speak of the great victories which God had given them over their enemies, and of the great deliverances he had wrought out for them. Great was the company of those that published it The deliverances wrought out by God for his people were so glorious and wonderful, that all sorts of persons, women as well as men, that heard of them, broke forth into songs of praise to God for them. Indeed the Hebrew word המבשׂרות , hambasseroth, here rendered, that published it, is in the feminine gender, and therefore refers chiefly to the women, who with songs and music celebrated the victories of the Israelites over their enemies, according to the custom of those times, Exo 15:20 ; 1 Samuel 18:6. So also in this procession, besides the singers and players on other instruments, we have the damsels playing with timbrels. The clause here, literally translated, is, Large was the number of women who published the glad tidings; which glad tidings are those contained in the next two verses.

Verse 12

Psalms 68:12. Kings of armies The kings of the Midianites, of Canaan, and other nations, which came forth against the Israelites with numerous and powerful armies; did flee apace Hebrew, ידדונ ידדונ , jiddodun, jiddodun, fled away, fled away, the reduplication of this word denoting their hasty flight and utter dispersion. They fled with their routed forces, and were pursued, overtaken, and destroyed by the victorious Israelites. She that tarried at home divided the spoil The spoil was so much that there was enough, not only for the proper use of those that took it, but also to be divided to their wives and children when they came home. After the conquest of the Midianites, God ordered the prey which was taken from them to be divided between them who went out on that expedition, and the rest of the people who continued in their tents, Numbers 31:27; and therefore this was part of the damsels’ song, that the women, who had charge of the household affairs, were enriched by an equal division of the enemies’ spoils, in which their husbands and fathers had their share; and perhaps it is the victory over the Midianites which is here referred to.

Verse 13

Psalms 68:13. Though ye have lien among the pots The word שׁפתים , shepattaim, here rendered pots, “signifies kettles, pots, or furnaces, for various uses, fixed in stone or brick, placed in double rows, and so regularly disposed for convenience and use; and refers to those pots, or furnaces, at which the Israelites in Egypt wrought as slaves, and among which they were forced to lie down for want of proper habitations, and in the most wretched and vile attire, Deuteronomy 4:26; Psalms 81:6. But how great was the alteration by the conquest of their enemies, and especially of the Midianites! Enriched by the spoils of your enemies, ye shall now lie down, that is, dwell at ease and with elegance in your tents.” Ye shall be Or, ye have been, which seems to be more suitable to the context, both preceding and following, in which he does not speak prophetically of things to come, but historically of things past. The sense of the verse then is, Though you have formerly been exposed to great servitude, reproach, and misery, namely, in Egypt; yet since that time God hath changed your condition greatly for the better. As the wings of a dove, &c. Beautiful and glorious, like the feathers of a dove, which, according to the variety of its postures, and of the light shining upon it, look like silver or gold. He is thought to refer to the rich garments, or costly tents, which they took from the Midianites, and their other enemies, and which, either because of their various colours, or their being ornamented with silver and gold, resembled the colours of a dove, the feathers of whose wings or body glistered interchangeably, as with silver and gold: see Chandler and Bochart. Thus the church of Christ has frequently emerged from a slate of persecution and tribulation into one of liberty and comfort. “And such is the change made in the spiritual condition of any man, when he passes from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God: he is invested with the robe of righteousness, and adorned with the graces of the Spirit of holiness.” Horne. But still, yea, incomparably greater will be the change of state and condition which all the true disciples of Christ shall experience when they shall completely put off the image of the earthly, with all its attendant infirmities, afflictions, and sufferings, and shall be fully invested with that of the heavenly, their very bodies being conformed to Christ’s glorious body. Then indeed shall all remains of their state of humiliation disappear: and they shall be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold: yea, they shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.

Verse 14

Psalms 68:14. When the Almighty scattered kings in it In Canaan, at the coming of the Israelites thither; it was white as snow in Salmon “The Almighty appeared most illustrious as Salmon,” says Bishop Patrick, that is, as mount Salmon covered with snow: “The land and nation,” says Mr. Samuel Clark, “were then in a very flourishing, joyful condition, and resplendent, by the establishment of God’s pure worship there.” Dr. Hammond explains and confirms this interpretation of the passage more at large, as follows: “The construction lies thus: בפרשׂ שׁדי מלכים בה , O God, by scattering kings there; or, when thou, O God Almighty, didst scatter kings in, or on it, επ αυτης , say the LXX., that is, on Salmon, תשׁלג , tashleg, thou wast white as snow; or, thou didst snow, that is, thou didst there appear in the most shining, bright, propitious form; thy mercies made that place more beautiful than the crown of snow doth the head of that mountain, when it melts in fertile moisture on the neighbouring valleys.” “Salmon,” he adds, “was the name of a very high hill on this side Jordan, in the portion of the tribe of Ephraim, Judges 9:40, and consequently used to have snow lying long upon it.” Poole however thinks, with many other interpreters, both Hebrew and Christian, and the Chaldee among the rest, that the word Salmon ought to be taken here, not for a proper, but a common name, signifying darkness, or a shadow, and therefore proposes rendering the clause, It was snow-white, or, Thou madest it snow-white in darkness; or, Thou didst cause light to shine out of darkness: that is, at a time when the state of thy people, and the land of Canaan, which thou hadst given them, was dark and dismal, or bloody, by reason of the wars raised against them by the Canaanitish kings, thou didst quickly change it, and whereas it was red like scarlet, or crimson, thou madest it whiter than snow. Thus Buxtorf translates תשׁלג בצלמון , tashleg betsalmon, nivesces, thou didst snow, or albesces sicut nix, in caligine. Thou didst grow white in darkness. Henry understands it of the church of God that then was: “She was white as snow in Salmon, purified and refined by the mercies of God.” Chandler renders the clause, When the Almighty scattered kings therein, thou didst make them joyful in Salmon; or, There was great joy in Salmon. Dr. Horne who doubtless had consulted the commentators above quoted and many others on the passage, acquiesces in this interpretation, observing, “The purport of this difficult verse seems to be, that all was white as snow, that is, all was brightness, joy, and festivity about mount Salmon, when the Almighty, fighting for his people Israel, vanquished their enemies in or about that part of the country.”

Verse 15

Psalms 68:15. The hill of God That is, Zion, the seat of God’s ark; is as the hill of Bashan Equal, yea, superior to it. Bashan was a rich and fruitful mountain beyond Jordan, called by the LXX. πιον ορος , a fat mountain, and ορος τετυρωμενον , a mountain that yielded much butter and cheese. But Zion had greater advantages, and yielded much better fruits. A high hill as the hill of Bashan Though it be but a low, mean hill, compared with Bashan, in outward appearance, yet it is as high as it, yea, is exalted far above it, through its spiritual privileges, being the place where God’s worship is established, where he is peculiarly present, and where he confers his choicest blessings; in which respect the mountain of the Lord’s house is said to be established on the top of the mountains, and exalted above the hills. Dr. Chandler supposes that this and the two following verses were begun to be sung when the ark came in view of mount Zion, the place of its fixed residence for the future, and probably when they began to ascend the hill. And he reads this, as well as the following verse, with an interrogation, conceiving that it makes them appear more suitable to the occasion, and worthy of the genuine spirit of poetry; thus: Is the hill of Bashan, is the craggy hill of Bashan the hill of God? As if he had said, Bashan may boast of its proud eminences, its craggy summits, but is this the hill where God will fix his residence?

Verse 16

Psalms 68:16. Why leap ye, ye high hills Why exult ye, or triumph, boasting of your height, and looking down upon poor Zion with scorn and contempt, as an obscure and inconsiderable hill, if compared with you? He speaks to the hills by a usual figure, called a prosopopœia. This is the hill, &c. This hill, though despicable in your eyes, is precious and honourable in the eyes of God, and chosen by him for the place of his settled and perpetual residence. Dr. Chandler, however, gives a different sense to the word תרצדון , teratsdun, here rendered, leap ye; and translates the whole verse thus: Why look ye with envy, ye craggy hills? This is the mountain God hath desired to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell there for ever. Thus he considers the psalmist as poetically introducing Bashan, and the other little hills, as looking with envy on mount Zion, that she, above all the other mountains, should be favoured with the residence of the eternal God, and become the fixed seat of his ark. He tacitly bids them cease their envy; and by pointing to mount Zion, says, “See! there is the hill which God hath chosen, above all others, to inhabit! Yea, the Lord will dwell there for ever. His ark shall never be removed from it to any other dwelling whatsoever.” For, though the ark was removed from that particular spot, in which it was now to be placed, to the hill of Moriah, upon which the temple was to be built; yet it must be remembered that Zion and Moriah stood near each other, being both in Jerusalem, and were, probably, but two tops of one and the same hill. Here, excepting the seventy years of the Babylonish captivity, during which time Jerusalem lay desolate, God would dwell “till the old dispensation should be at an end; till the glory of the Lord should be revealed in human nature; till God should be manifest in the flesh; and the true tabernacle and temple should succeed the typical. After that, the privileges of Zion were transferred to the Christian Church; she became, and, while the world lasts, will continue to be, the hill in which God delighteth to dwell; she will therefore be justly entitled to the pre-eminence over all that may seem to be great and glorious in the world.” Horne.

Verse 17

Psalms 68:17. The chariots of God are twenty thousand Nor let the heathen boast of their hosts or armies, or of the multitude of their chariots, wherein chiefly their strength consists; for in Zion there are ten thousand times more, even innumerable hosts of angels, who attend upon God, to do his pleasure, and to fight for him and for his people. Twenty thousand here stands for an innumerable company, a certain number being put for an uncertain. The Lord is among them And here is not only the presence of the angels, but of the great and blessed God himself; in Sinai as in the holy place God is no less gloriously, though less terribly, present here than he was in Sinai, when, attended with thousands of his angels, he solemnly appeared there to deliver the law. Hebrew, סיני בקדשׁ , sinai bakodesh, literally, Sinai is in the sanctuary, or holy place, which is a poetical, and a very emphatical expression, and very pertinent to this place. For, having advanced Zion above all other hills, he now equals it to that venerable hill of Sinai, which the divine majesty honoured with his glorious presence. Here, says he, you have, in some sort, mount Sinai itself, namely, all the glories and privileges of it, the presence of Jehovah, attended with his angels, and the same law and covenant, yea, and a greater privilege than Sinai had, to wit, the Lord descending from heaven into a human body, as appears by his ascending thither again, which the next verse describes. For here the psalmist seems evidently to be transported by the prophetic spirit, from the narration of those external successes and victories, of which he had been speaking in the former part of the Psalm, unto the prediction of higher and more glorious things, even of the coming of the Messiah, and of the happy and transcendent privileges and blessings accruing to mankind thereby. And the connection of this new matter with the former is sufficiently apparent. For the preference of Zion to other places having been stated, Psalms 68:15-16, he now proves its excellence by an invincible argument; it was the place to which the Lord of hosts himself, the Messiah, God manifest in the flesh, was to come; and, when he came, was to be attended by a multitude of angels, celebrating his birth, ministering to him in his temptation, attesting his resurrection, and accompanying him in his ascension.

Verse 18

Psalms 68:18. Thou hast ascended on high “When the ark had ascended mount Zion, and was deposited in the place assigned for it, the singers are supposed, by Dr. Chandler, to gave proceeded with this part of the Psalm, in which (he thinks) they celebrate the ascension of their God and king, by the symbol of his presence, to the heights of Zion, after having subdued their enemies, and enriched his people with the spoil of the vanquished, and the gifts of the tributary nations; of which much was probably employed in the service of the tabernacle, and afterward in building the temple, first designed by David, that the Lord God might dwell and have a fixed habitation among his people.” Horne. But although David, in composing this Psalm for the occasion, as is supposed, of removing the ark, might probably, in this part of it, refer in some measure to the ascent of that symbol of the divine presence to the top of mount Zion; yet his expressions are evidently too strong and exalted to be confined to that transaction, or even to have been primarily intended of it. He certainly speaks principally of another and much more important event, typified, indeed, by that ascent of the ark, and the advantages resulting therefrom to the people, but far more glorious in itself, and producing effects of infinitely greater consequence, not only to the Jews, but to the whole human race. He speaks of the ascension of the Messiah into heaven, in consequence of his victory over his and our enemies, obtained by his death and resurrection. And, accordingly, as is well known, his words are so applied by the apostle to the Gentiles, Ephesians 4:8, who, guided as he was, by the Spirit of truth, certainly neither did, not could, mistake the meaning of this divine oracle given forth by the inspiration of the same Spirit. It must, however, be acknowledged, that, having been speaking of victories and conquests in war, he borrows, as it was natural for him to do, his expressions on this subject from the ancient custom of princes and generals of armies, who, after such glorious achievements, were wont to go up into their royal cities in triumphant chariots, being attended by their captive enemies, and afterward to distribute divers gifts to their soldiers and subjects, and sometimes to do some acts of clemency, even to their enemies and rebels, and to receive them into the number of their own people. In allusion to this, he here represents the victorious Captain of our salvation as ascending to his royal city in the heavens, leading his enemies captive, and conferring the most important gifts, privileges, and blessings on his subjects, and even on such as had been rebels against his government. Thou hast led captivity captive That is, either those who did formerly take thy people captive, or rather, those whom thou hadst taken captive, as this expression is most commonly used. See Deuteronomy 21:10; Judges 5:12. Thus poverty is but for the poor, 2 Kings 24:14; see the Hebrew. This is meant of Satan, sin and death, and of all the enemies of Christ and his people, whom he led in triumph, having spoiled them, and making a show of them openly, as is expressed Colossians 2:15. Thou hast received gifts for men Hebrew, באדם ; εν ανθρωπω , in the man, as the LXX. render it, that is, in the human nature, wherewith thou wast pleased to clothe thyself, that thou mightest be a merciful and faithful High-Priest in things pertaining to God. Not in thy Godhead; but according to thy manhood, thou hast received from God all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and all those gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit which are necessary, either to the perfection of thy nature, or the good of thy church and people; or, for men; not for angels; “fallen angels were not to be made saints,” says Henry, “nor standing angels ministers. Not for Jews only, but for all men; whosoever will may reap the benefit of these gifts.” The apostle, in the reference which he makes to these words, names some of these gifts: they were prophets, apostles, evangelists, pastors, teachers; namely, the institution of a gospel ministry, and the qualification of men for it, both which are to be valued as the gifts of God, and the fruits of Christ’s ascension. The apostle reads it, he gave gifts to men. For he received that he might give them. And some of the best critics have observed, that in the Hebrew idiom, to take gifts for another, is the same as to give them to another: see 1 Kings 3:24; and Genesis 18:5, in the Hebrew. The anointing of the Spirit was poured on his head, that it might descend to the skirts of his garments, to the lowest and meanest members of his mystical body. Yea, for the rebellious also For those that had been rebellious, who had not only broken his laws, but appeared in arms against him; even for his most stubborn and determined enemies, whether Jews or Gentiles; for those who crucified him and put him to open shame. Even for these, as well as others, he received, and to these he gave those saving gifts and graces; and of such as these, converted by the power of his gospel, he formed and established a holy church; that the Lord God might dwell among them That having received such gifts and graces, and thereby being made fit habitations for God, he, who as man is ascended into the highest heavens, might, as God, come down to them and abide with them, not only in and by his ordinances, in which he is present, but by his Spirit dwelling in their hearts.

Verses 19-20

Psalms 68:19-20. Blessed be the Lord, &c. Having surveyed God’s dispensations of grace and mercy to his church and people, thus manifested in their redemption and salvation, the psalmist is so overcome with gratitude for them, that he thus breaks forth abruptly in praise and thanksgiving; who daily loadeth us with his benefits Who, besides the great and glorious blessing of our redemption, once wrought for us, is daily conferring new favours upon us. So many and so weighty are the gifts of God’s bounty to us, that he may be truly said to load us with them; and so incessant are they, and so unwearied is he in doing us good, that he daily loads us with them, according as the necessity of every day requires. Even the God of our salvation The only author and finisher of our present and of our eternal salvation. He that is our God Who is our Friend, Father, and God in covenant; is the God of salvation He will not put us off with present things for a portion, but he will be the God of our salvation: and what he gives us now, he gives as the God of salvation, pursuant to his great design of bringing us to everlasting happiness. For that only will answer the vast extent of his covenant relation to us as our God. But has he power to complete this salvation? Yes, certainly; for unto the Lord our God belong the issues from death The keys of hell and death are put into the hands of the Lord Jesus, Revelation 1:18. He, having made an escape from death itself, in his resurrection, has both authority and power to rescue his followers from the dominion of it, by altering the property of it to them when they die, and giving them a complete victory over it when they shall rise again; for the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.

Verse 21

Psalms 68:21. But God shall wound the head of his enemies Of Satan, the old serpent, of whom it was, by the first promise, foretold, that the seed of the woman should bruise his head; and the heads of all the powers of the nations, whether Jews or Gentiles, that oppose him and his kingdom among men. Psalms 110:6, He shall wound the heads over many countries; of all those, whoever they are, that will not have him to reign over them. For these he accounts his enemies, and they shall be brought forth and slain before him, Luke 19:27. The hairy scalp, &c. This expression seems to refer to the custom prevalent with many, in ancient times, of wearing long shaggy hair, that their looks might be more terrible to their enemies. Of such a one as goeth on still in his trespasses And hates to be reformed. Christ looks on all such as his enemies, and will treat them accordingly. The original words here used have great emphasis, and imply, God shall strike deep, or exhaust the blood of the head of his enemies, that is, utterly destroy them. As if he had said, “He will avenge himself on their devoted heads; nor shall their strength or craft be able to protect them from his indignation.” For the head, and the hairy scalp, or crown, denote the principal part, the strength, the pride, and the glory of the adversary, which was to be crushed, according to the original sentence, Genesis 3:15. It is justly observed here by Dr. Horne, that this verse begins a prediction of that vengeance which the person who was “ascended on high would infallibly execute upon his impenitent enemies, and which was shadowed forth in the destruction of the enemies of Israel by David, after that the ark of God was placed upon the hill of Zion.”

Verses 22-23

Psalms 68:22-23. The Lord said Purposed within himself, and promised by divers of his prophets, though not in the same words which are here used: see 2 Samuel 4:8. I will bring again from Bashan I will repeat my ancient favours, and give my people, by David, as great deliverances as I formerly gave them when I saved them from the hand of Og, king of Bashan, who came out against them with all his forces, Deuteronomy 3:1; a deliverance often mentioned in succeeding parts of Scripture as one of the most eminent. I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea I will appear as powerfully for them as I did when I delivered them from the Egyptian army, by giving them a safe passage through the Red sea. That thy foot may be dipped, &c. The meaning is, that if the enemies of God’s people should continue to invade and harass them by war, they should be entirely cut off by the sword, and their slaughter be so great, as that the victorious army should be forced to trample on their dead and bloody bodies, and the dogs should satiate themselves by lapping up their blood. The words are the description of a complete victory, and of what happens after a bloody engagement.

Verse 24

Psalms 68:24 . They, &c. When the ark was safely deposited, the sacrifices offered, the solemnity well nigh concluded, and the whole assembly about to return back, Dr. Chandler supposes the singers struck up and joined in the remaining part of this noble anthem. They have seen Men saw and observed, thy goings, O God The procession of the ark to Zion, the solemnity whereof is particularly described in the following verses. The word, goings, הליכותיךְ , halichotheicha, means, thy marches; the procession, it seems, stopping several times, and being performed in several sorts of periods, in proper succession, one after another, for the ease of those who bore the ark, and for performing some sacred rites, which were appointed on this occasion, 2 Samuel 6:13; 1 Chronicles 15:26. Even the marches of my God, my King He repeats it, because the words contain a sort of triumph on account of this great work of translating the ark being now happily accomplished, which he seems to have considered as a pledge and earnest of the mighty things God would do for them, having now, by this symbol of his presence, taken possession of the place prepared for him on mount Zion, and therefore of Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom: in the sanctuary Or, in holiness, for it was not a light and carnal, but a serious and holy procession: or, into the sanctuary, as the words may be rendered; or, holy tabernacle prepared for it; to which they had now carried the ark.

Verses 25-26

Psalms 68:25-26. The singers went before David had ordered the chief of the Levites to appoint their brethren for singers, by lifting up the voice with joy, 1 Chronicles 15:16; the players on instruments followed after

Of which see 2 Samuel 16:15; 1 Chronicles 13:8. Among them were the damsels According to the usage; playing on timbrels And with their voices celebrating the praises of God. Bless ye God in the congregation This verse contains what they sang on this occasion, in concert with the band of music. From the fountain of Israel Or, as it is rendered in the margin, and by many others, Ye that are of, or from, the fountain of Israel, or Jacob; that is, all ye people of Israel, derived from the stock or family of Jacob; see Isaiah 48:1. But these words are by some joined to the former clause, thus: Bless the Lord for the fountain of Israel, that is, for that fountain which God hath opened to Israel, for the purging away of sin and uncleanness, as is expressed Zechariah 13:1, even the blood and Spirit of Christ, and all those spiritual blessings which God confers upon his people in the sanctuary, and by his ordinances. But the former sense seems most natural and easy.

Verse 27

Psalms 68:27 . There is little Benjamin Present in this solemn pomp of carrying the ark to Zion, under the conduct of David their king. That tribe is called little, partly because it was the youngest, as being descended from Jacob’s youngest son, and principally because it was exceedingly diminished, and almost annihilated under the judges. And he notices it particularly here, both because it was nearest to Judah, and to the place to which the ark was now carried; and also to signify their reconciliation and submission to David, against whom they had stood out with more obstinacy than any other tribe, as having been so long used to govern, and unwilling to part with the regal dignity, which was, by God’s appointment, first seated among them. With their ruler With the prince of their tribe, who marched at the head of them. Hebrew, Benjamin their ruler; the tribe which had lately swayed the sceptre, but now submitted to David. The princes of Judah It is no wonder that he should mention the princes of this tribe, because he was elected by them to be their king; their council “This tribe was certainly the council or chief support of the Israelitish constitution, both in the cabinet and the field; in the former it had the lead. The princes of Zebulun and Naphtali are added, as the most remote, to show the unanimity of the whole nation, and of all the tribes far and near, in attending this solemnity; to testify their willing acknowledgment of David for their king, and their consent, that henceforward Jerusalem, the city of David, should be declared and esteemed the capital of the whole nation.”

Verse 28

Psalms 68:28. Thy God, O Israel, hath commanded Hath ordained, or effectually procured; thy strength All that strength and power which thou hast effectually exerted at any time against thine enemies, and which is now greatly increased by the union of all the tribes under one head. In other words, the great power of the Israelites, and the height of glory and strength to which the kingdom of David had arisen, were the work of God. This naturally makes way for the petition following: Strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought in us Let the foundation of our present happiness be firm and durable.

Verse 29

Psalms 68:29. Because of thy temple at Jerusalem The tabernacle erected there by David, in which the ark was now placed; or rather, the temple which he foresaw would be built, and which he knew would be very magnificent, and of fame and glory throughout all countries, as he says, 1 Chronicles 22:5; and such as would command esteem and reverence, even from the heathen princes and people, and that, not only for its most splendid and glorious structure, but especially for the wonderful works which the God of that temple would work in behalf of his people, and in answer to the prayers that should be made in that temple; of which see 1 Kings 8:41-43. Shall kings bring presents unto thee Which was done in part in the times of Solomon and Hezekiah, and afterward by others; but more fully when the Lord Christ was come into his temple, according to Malachi 3:1, and had built a better temple instead of it, even the Christian Church, to which it was foretold, in many prophecies of the Old Testament, that the kings and nations of the earth would flow in great abundance.

Verse 30

Psalms 68:30. Rebuke, &c. Chastise those that will not bring presents unto thee till they see their error and submit themselves. It is a prophetical prayer against the enemies of the Israelitish Church. The company of spearmen The reading in the margin, The beasts of the reeds; or, as קנה חית , chajath kaneh, is still more literally rendered, the beast, or wild beast of the reed, seems preferable here to this which our translators have placed in the text. For although the word הית , rendered congregation, Psalms 68:10, may signify a company, (see the note there,) it does not appear that there is any sufficient authority for translating קנה , spearmen, the word properly signifying a reed. The LXX. render the clause, επιτιμησον τοις θηριοις του καλαμου , rebuke the beasts of the reed. “By the wild beast (or beasts) of the reeds,” says Dr. Horne, after Poole, Chandler, Lowth, and several other learned men, “is to be understood the Egyptian power, described by its emblem, the crocodile, or river-horse, creatures living among the reeds of the Nile.” In consistency with this interpretation, by the calves of the people, or of the nations, as he translates it, he understands the objects of worship among the Egyptians, their Apis, Osiris, &c., around which the congregation of the mighty (Hebrew, עדת אבירים , gnadath abbirim, rendered in our text, the multitude of the bulls) assembled to worship. There is, however, one considerable objection to this interpretation. As David was not now attacked by the Egyptians, nor about to make war upon them, it does not seem likely that he should so particularly advert to them, or pray so pointedly against them, on this occasion. Some enemy, however, of great power, and fierce as a wild beast, was, no doubt, intended. Bishop Patrick, who refers us to 2 Samuel 8:3, evidently thought that Hadadezer, king of Zobah, and the Syrians were meant. His paraphrase on the clause is, “Destroy that fierce prince, who, like a wild beast out of the forest, comes against us, with a great number of captains as furious as bulls, and of soldiers as insolent as young heifers.” Till every one submit himself Hebrew, מתרפס , mithrappes, literally, casts himself down, or offers himself to be trod upon. The same word bears the same sense Proverbs 6:3. With pieces of silver Bringing pieces of silver by way of tribute, or in token of subjection. This sense of the clause seems to connect best with the context, although, it must be acknowledged, the original text is very obscure, and is capable of several different interpretations, as learned men have shown: see Chandler, Lowth, Dodd, and Horne. Which interpretations it would require more room to state than can be spared in this work. Scatter Hebrew, בזר , bizzar, he hath scattered; that is, according to the prophetic style, He will certainly scatter; the people that delight in war That without any necessity or provocation, and merely out of love of mischief and spoil, make war upon others, and particularly upon us. The sense of the verse upon the whole is, Now that thou hast given thy people rest, and settled the ark in its place, O Lord, rebuke all our malicious and bloody enemies, and give us assured peace, that we may worship thee without disturbance. Thus “the Christian Church,” says Dr. Horne, “through faith in the power of her Lord, risen from the dead, and ascended into heaven, prays for the confusion of her implacable enemies, who delight in opposing the kingdom of Messiah.”

Verse 31

Psalms 68:31. Princes shall come out of Egypt The word חשׁמנים , chashmannim, here rendered princes, is not found elsewhere in the Scriptures, and therefore its precise meaning is not certainly known. Elias, a Jewish rabbi, observes that the Jews call cardinals by this name in Italy: and the term is thought to signify a princely person accompanied by a numerous attendance. The Seventy render it πρεσβεις , elders, senators, or ambassadors. It does not appear from Scripture, whether any of the great men of Egypt came up to worship the true God at Jerusalem, while the temple was standing, or not. But it is certain that, in after ages, a great number of the inhabitants of Egypt were Jews, whether it was that they were of Jewish original, and whose ancestors had betaken themselves thither, or whether they were originally Egyptians who had embraced the Jewish religion. The Prophet Isaiah foretold, that it should come to pass that five cities in the land of Egypt should speak the language of Canaan, and swear to the Lord of hosts, that is, worship him. Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God Either in the way of humble supplication and submission, begging mercy of him, or to offer up the presents expressed Psalms 68:29. He only mentions Egypt and Ethiopia, as having been the great and ancient enemies of God and of his church, and as a most wicked and idolatrous people; but by them he understands all other nations of a like character. And he here expresses his hope, that the victories which he and the Israelites should gain over the neighbouring nations would induce even those which were more remote, and most addicted to idolatry, to come to Jerusalem, and join themselves to the worshippers of the true God. And his hopes were so far realized, that when, through the instrumentality of David, the surrounding “hostile powers were overthrown, and the church of Israel was fully established, the more distant nations, even those which had been most given to idolatry, sued for her friendship, and came to Jerusalem with gifts and oblations.” Horne. But this prophecy, as also that contained in the next verse, evidently belongs to the times of the Messiah, when the Gentiles were to be brought to the knowledge and worship of the true God; with the thoughts and hopes whereof David often comforted himself in that confined and afflicted state of the church in his time.

Verses 32-33

Psalms 68:32-33. Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth Not only Egypt and Ethiopia, but other kingdoms and nations also, who shall partake of the same grace with them. To him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens Upon the highest heavens, his truest and best sanctuary; dwelling there in infinite glory and majesty, and from thence looking down upon all the inhabitants of the earth, and ruling them by his almighty power, and therefore most fit to be acknowledged and received by all kings and kingdoms as their Lord and Governor; which were of old From the very beginning of the world; whereas the ark was only a few hundreds of years old. Lo, he doth send out his voice Thunder is described in Scripture as the voice of God, (Psalms 29:0.,) and is peculiarly awful and terrible in the eastern and warmer parts of the earth. But the word of God seems to be here meant, namely, the gospel, published by Christ and his apostles, with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which might well be called God’s voice, and that a mighty voice, because it produced such great and wonderful effects, as are here mentioned, in converting the kings and kingdoms of the earth.

Verse 34

Psalms 68:34. Ascribe ye strength unto God Acknowledge that he is mighty, and able to do whatsoever he pleaseth for his people, or against his or their enemies. His excellency is over Israel His excellent power and goodness; Hebrew, גאותו , gaavatho, his highness, or majesty; this dwells among them, and is employed for them, as occasion requires. He is indeed the universal Lord of the whole heaven and earth, but in a special and excellent manner he is the God of Israel, and his kingdom is particularly exalted over them. He hath taken them for his peculiar inheritance; and by them alone he is adored and worshipped as the universal Creator, the supreme Lord of heaven and earth. His strength is in the clouds Hebrew, בשׁחקים , in the heavens, or skies. He hath two dwellings and thrones, the one in his church and among his people, and the other in heaven, and in both these he manifests his power; redeeming, preserving, and sanctifying the former, and directing and governing the mighty orbs of the latter in all their motions, and from thence upholding and influencing the whole universe, animate and inanimate, rational and spiritual, and sending forth both the thunder of his power, and the great and small rain of his strength.

Verse 35

Psalms 68:35. O God, thou art terrible Hebrew, נורא , nora, venerable, yea, infinitely worthy to be both reverenced and feared. Out of thy holy places Or, sanctuaries. “Heaven was his sanctuary of old; his earthly sanctuary was in Zion: he was worthy to be feared as inhabiting both, and he is represented as going out of them, to take vengeance on the enemies of his people, and as dreadful on account of the judgments which, from thence, as the places of his dwelling, he executes on them. He giveth strength and power to his people Though the marks of his displeasure are dreadful to his enemies, yet he gives fortitude and courage unto his people, inspires them with resolution and vigour, and renders them victorious over all that oppose them. The psalmist adds, Blessed be God! And surely men and angels, heaven and earth, ought to say, Amen! All is from him; let all be returned to him, in praise and thanksgiving; and let the whole intelligent creation exclaim, Blessed be God, who hath so wonderfully blessed us!

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 68". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-68.html. 1857.
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