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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 85

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


A.M. 3468. B.C. 536.

This Psalm, which is a thankful acknowledgment of God’s goodness, in turning their captivity, and an humble prayer for confirming, continuing, and completing the mercy, may, with some propriety, be applied to David’s return to Jerusalem, after his flight from Absalom; but is much more applicable to the days of Ezra and Nehemiah after the captivity. The psalmist acknowledges the mercy of God in bringing them back to their own land, Psalms 85:1-3 . Prays that he would restore them to their ancient prosperity, Psalms 85:4-7 . Predicts a favourable answer, and exults at the prospect of it, Psalms 85:8-13 .

Verses 1-3

Psalms 85:1-3. Lord, thou hast been favourable unto thy land That is, unto thy people, in removing the sad effects of thy displeasure. Thou hast brought back the captivity of Jacob The captives, as that word is used Psalms 14:7; Psalms 68:18, and elsewhere. Thou hast covered all their sin So as not to impute it to them, or to continue the punishment which thou didst inflict upon them for it. Thou hast taken away all thy wrath Those calamities which were the effects of thy just wrath conceived against us.

Verse 4

Psalms 85:4. Turn us, O God of our salvation That is, either, 1st, Convert us. As thou hast brought back our bodies to thy land, so bring back our hearts to thyself, from whom many of them are to this day alienated. Or rather, restore us to our former tranquillity, and free us from the troubles which we yet groan under from our malicious neighbours and enemies. And cause thine anger toward us to cease He prudently endeavours to get the root and cause of their continued miseries removed, namely, God’s anger procured by their sins.

Verse 6

Psalms 85:6. Wilt thou not revive us again? Thou hast once revived us in bringing us out of captivity; give us a second reviving, in bringing home the rest of our brethren, and in rebuking and restraining the remainder of our enemies’ wrath. Revive us with encouraging and comfortable words spoken to us, revive us with gracious and desired deliverances wrought for us. That thy people may rejoice in thee Quicken and give them life, that they may have joy: and that their joy, being derived from thee, may terminate in thee. “If God,” says Henry, “be the fountain of all our mercies, he must be the centre of all our joys.”

Verse 8

Psalms 85:8. I will hear Diligently observe; what God the Lord will speak Either by his prophets and other messengers, or by his providence, for that also hath a voice: I will hear what answer God will give to these my prayers. And the psalmist, by declaring what he would do, teaches all the Israelites what they ought to do; namely, attentively to hearken to the voice of God, in whatever way he should be pleased to speak to them, and to receive his gracious declarations and promises in faith and expectation, and his holy precepts and dispensations in obedience and submission: and especially that they should wait to know what answer God would return to their prayers. For he will speak peace unto his people I am assured, from God’s gracious nature, and declared will and promises, that he will give an answer of peace to his people; and to his saints Which clause seems to be added by way of explication and restriction, to show that this glorious privilege did not belong to all that were called God’s people, but only to those that were truly and really such, even to his saints or holy ones, or, as חסידיו , chasidaiv, rather means, his kind, beneficent, and merciful ones, who to piety and holiness toward God, join justice and benevolence toward man, and while they truly love and serve God, love and serve their brother also. To these God will speak peace, for blessed are the merciful, they shall obtain mercy. But let them not turn again to folly That is, to sin, which in Scripture is commonly called folly. This is added as a necessary caution; for it is on these terms, and no other, that peace is to be expected. To those, and those only, peace is spoken, who turn from sin; but if they return to it again, if they become wanton and secure, and relapse into their former wicked courses, they will provoke God to repent of his kindness to them, to inflict further and sorer judgments upon them here; and, if they still persist in disobedience and rebellion, to punish them more severely hereafter. Observe, reader, all sin is folly, but especially backsliding; it is egregious folly to turn to sin, after we had turned from it; to turn to it, after God had forgiven it, delivered us from the power of it, and spoken peace to our consciences. God is for peace, but when he speaks thereof, such are for war.

Verse 9

Psalms 85:9. His salvation is nigh them that fear him Namely, that complete salvation and deliverance for which all the Israel of God do pray and wait; even the redemption of Israel by the Messiah; of which not only Christian but Jewish writers understand this passage, and to which the following verses do most properly and perfectly belong. And the psalmist might well say of this salvation, that it was nigh, because the seventy weeks of years, the four hundred and ninety years, determined by Daniel for this work, Daniel 9:24, were now begun, this Psalm being written after Daniel’s time. In saying that it was nigh to them that fear him, he both excludes all hypocritical Israelites from this salvation, and tacitly assigns it to all that fear God, whether Jews or Gentiles. That glory may dwell in our land That we may once again see glorious days in our land; may recover our ancient glory, the tokens of God’s presence with us, the most eminent of which we have now utterly lost: that the Lord of glory himself, even Christ, the brightness of his Father’s glory, Hebrews 1:3; John 1:0. i4, and the glory of his people Israel, may come and visibly dwell in this now despised land.

Verse 10

Psalms 85:10. Mercy and truth are met together, &c. When that blessed time shall come, those virtues which now seem to be banished from human society shall be restored, and there shall be a happy union of mercy, or benignity, with truth, or veracity, and fidelity; of righteousness, or justice and equity, with peace, or peaceableness and concord. But the passage is rather to be understood of blessings from God, than of graces or virtues in man; of which blessings the whole context speaks. And then the sense is, that the great work of redemption and salvation by Christ shall clearly manifest and demonstrate God’s mercy in redeeming his people Israel, and in the calling and conversion of the Gentiles, his truth in fulfilling his promises, especially the great promise of the Messiah to come in the flesh, which was the foundation of all the other promises; his righteousness in punishing sin in the surety of sinners, of making his Son a sin-offering for us, and in conferring righteousness upon guilty and lost creatures; and his peace, or reconciliation, to penitent, believing sinners, and that peace of conscience which attends upon it. “Thus these four divine attributes, parted at the fall of Adam, met again at the birth of Christ. Mercy was ever inclined to serve man, and peace could not be his enemy; but truth exacted the performance of God’s threat, The soul that sinneth it shall die; and righteousness could not but give to every one his due. Jehovah must be true in all his ways, and righteous in all his works. Now there is no religion upon earth, except the Christian, which can satisfy the demands of all these claimants, and restore a union between them; which can show how God’s word can be true, and his work just, and the sinner, notwithstanding, find mercy and obtain peace. But a God incarnate reconciled all things in heaven and earth.” Horne.

Verse 11

Psalms 85:11. Truth shall spring out of the earth Either, 1st, Truth among men, which shall be as common among all men as if it sprung out of the earth. Or rather, 2d, The truth or faithfulness of God, which may be truly said to spring out of the earth, partly because it had long been as if it were hid, and buried like a root in a dry ground, without any hopes of a reviving; from whence, yet God made it to grow, as is signified Isaiah 53:2; and partly, because Christ, who is the truth, John 14:6, and a minister of the circumcision, (that is, of the circumcised, or of the Jews,) for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, was born on the earth of a virgin. And righteousness looked down from heaven Even God’s righteousness, or justice, which had been offended with men, shall then be satisfied, and shall, through Christ, look down upon sinful men with a reconciled and smiling countenance. “When Christ appeared in our nature,” says Dr. Horne, “this promise was fulfilled, and Truth sprung out of the earth. And now Righteousness, looking down from heaven, beheld in him every thing she required; an undefiled birth, a holy life, an innocent death; a spirit and mouth without guile, a soul and body without sin. She saw and was satisfied, and returned to earth. Thus all the four parties met again in perfect harmony; Truth ran to Mercy, and embraced her; Righteousness to Peace, and kissed her. And this could only happen at the birth of Jesus, in whom the tender mercy of our God visited us, and who is the Truth; who is made unto us Righteousness, and who is our Peace. Those that are thus joined, as attributes in Christ, ought not, as virtues, to be separated in a Christian, who may learn how to resemble his blessed Lord and Master, by observing that short, but complete rule of life, comprehended in the few following words: show mercy, and speak truth; do righteousness, and follow peace.”

Verses 12-13

Psalms 85:12-13. The Lord shall give us that which is good That is, all that is good in itself, and good for us; all spiritual and temporal blessings. And our land shall yield her increase The effects of the incarnation of Christ, the descent of the Spirit, and the publication of the gospel among men, are here, as frequently elsewhere, set forth in Scripture under images borrowed from that fruitfulness caused in the earth by the rain of heaven. Righteousness shall go before him As his harbinger, or attendant. He shall work and fulfil all righteousness. He shall satisfy and glorify the righteousness of God, and shall advance the practice of righteousness and holiness among men. And shall set us in the way of his steps That is, shall incline and enable us to walk in those righteous ways wherein he walked, and which he hath prescribed to us. “Draw us, blessed Jesus, and we will run after thee in the path of life; let thy mercy pardon us, thy truth enlighten us, thy righteousness direct us, to follow thee, O Lamb of God, whithersoever thou goest, through poverty, affliction, persecution, and death itself; that our portion may be for ever in thy kingdom of peace and love!” Horne.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 85". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-85.html. 1857.
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