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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 97

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


A.M. 2959. B.C. 1045.

The LXX. call this “A Psalm of David after his land was restored to him;” that is, as Bishop Patrick explains it, after he was made master of all those countries which God anciently designed to be the inheritance of Israel: see 1 Chronicles 18:1-2 . But, in its sublimer meaning, it belongs to the kingdom of Christ, who, as Henry observes, is the Alpha and Omega of this Psalm, as well as of the last. This appears from the 7th verse, which the apostle to the Hebrews quotes, and applies to Christ’s royal power and authority over angels; and in this light the Hebrew rabbins themselves, as Kimchi confesses, view this Psalm. Agreeably to this, the title of the Psalm, in the Syriac version, says, “The psalmist foretels the coming of Christ.” The attentive reader will observe a great similarity between this and the eighteenth Psalm; the poetical imagery of both is exceedingly lofty and grand; the thoughts and style of both so much alike, that it cannot be questioned whether they were both written by the same hand: see Dodd. Here the reign of Christ is celebrated, and the nations are called to rejoice on account of it, Psalms 97:1 , Psalms 97:2 . He is described as taking vengeance on his enemies, overthrowing idolatry, and commanding the adoration of all creatures, Psalms 97:3-7 . As inspiring gladness into the church, by subduing her enemies, Psalms 97:8 . Psalms 97:9 . The duties of holiness, thankfulness, and religious joy are inculcated, Psalms 97:10-12 .

Verse 1

Psalms 97:1. The Lord reigneth He that made the world, governs it; he that called the universe into existence, upholds and presides over it; and he rules, judges, and rewards, or punishes his intelligent, free, and immortal creatures, whether men or angels. The Lord Jesus reigns; the providential kingdom is interwoven with the mediatorial, and the administration of both is in the hand of Christ; who is therefore both head of the church, and head over all things to the church: see on Psalms 93:1; Psalms 96:10. Let the earth rejoice The inhabitants of the world everywhere; for hereby they are honoured and benefited unspeakably: they are blessed with sure protection, a wise and equitable government, holy, just, and salutary laws, and an ample provision for the supply of all their wants. Let the multitude of isles be glad thereof Not only let the people of Israel rejoice in him, as king of the Jews, and the daughter of Zion, as her king, but let all the earth rejoice in his exaltation; for the kingdoms of the world shall, sooner or later, become his kingdoms. There is enough in Christ for the multitude of isles to rejoice in; for, though millions have been made happy in him, yet still there is room.

Verse 2

Psalms 97:2. Clouds and darkness are round about him His dispensations are mysterious and altogether unaccountable; his ways in the sea, and his path in the great waters. We are not aware what his designs are, nor is it fit that we should be made acquainted with the secrets of his government. But, though there is a depth in his counsels which we must not pretend to fathom, still righteousness and judgment That is, righteous judgment, or righteousness in judgment, are the habitation Or, as Dr. Hammond renders the word מכון , mechon, the basis, of his throne That is, the foundation, or establishment of it; for the throne is established by righteousness. Proverbs 16:12. All his laws, decrees, and administrations, are grounded upon and managed with justice and equity. Therefore his throne is for ever and ever, because his sceptre is a right sceptre, Psalms 45:6.

Verses 3-5

Psalms 97:3-5. A fire goeth before him, &c. “The judgments of God, and their effects upon the world, are here set forth, under the usual similitude of lightning and fire from heaven, causing the earth to tremble, and the mountains to melt and dissolve away.” And by these terrible appearances in the natural world are especially signified those dreadful judgments of God, which were to be inflicted upon the Jews and others for their contempt and rejection of the Messiah, which was foretold in the Old Testament, and accomplished in the New. His lightnings enlightened the world This phrase signifies, not so much illumination as terror and judgments, as appears, both from the following words, and from the constant use of the phrase in that sense. The hills melted The strongest and loftiest parts of the earth, by which he may intend the great potentates of the world, who set themselves against the Messiah; at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth Whose dominion shall not then be confined in Canaan, as now, in a manner, it is, but shall be enlarged over the whole earth. “The exaltation of Christ to the throne of his kingdom was followed by a dreadful display of that vengeance which broke in pieces the Jewish nation, and brought their civil and religious polity to an utter dissolution. In the history of their destruction the world of the ungodly may view a striking picture of the great and terrible day when the Lord Jesus shall render a recompense to all his enemies. He is then to descend in flaming fire; lightnings shall be his harbingers; the earth shall tremble, and the hills shall literally melt like wax at the presence of Jehovah.” Horne.

Verse 6

Psalms 97:6 . The heavens declare his righteousness It is as conspicuous and illustrious as the heavens themselves. Or the angels, yea, God himself gives testimony from heaven to the righteousness of Christ. And all the people see his glory Both Jews and Gentiles shall partake of the glorious fruits and benefits of his coming. Dr. Horne, however, interprets this verse differently, thus: “The heavens, by the manifestation of vengeance from thence, reveal, declare, and proclaim the righteous judgments of Messiah; and all the people upon earth are witnesses of the glory of his victory over every thing that opposeth itself to the establishment of his kingdom.”

Verse 7

Psalms 97:7. Confounded be all they that serve graven images That is, the Gentile world, who did service to them who by nature were no gods, Galatians 4:8. Let them be ashamed of their former folly herein, and be thereby brought to detest and forsake their idols. Thus interpreted, the words are a prayer for the conversion of the Gentiles, that those who had been so long serving dumb idols might be convinced of their error, ashamed of their folly, and might be brought, by the power of Christ’s gospel, to serve the only living and true God, and be as much ashamed of their idols as ever they were proud of them, Isaiah 2:20-21. Or, they shall be confounded. And so this is a prophecy, predicting the ruin of those that would not be reclaimed from their idolatry; they shall be confounded by the destruction of paganism in the Roman empire, which was fulfilled about three hundred years after Christ, so much to the terror of idolaters that even the mighty men among them are represented, Revelation 6:15-16, as saying to the rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, &c. This prayer and prophecy are still in force against anti-christian idolaters, who may here read their doom.

Verses 8-9

Psalms 97:8-9. Zion heard The people dwelling in Zion, or Jerusalem and Judah, to whom Christ came, and to whom the gospel was first preached. Or God’s church and people, who, both in the Psalms and prophetical writings, are often called Zion; heard the fame of thy judgments, as the following words declare; the ruin of idolatry, and the setting up of the kingdom of the Messiah in the world. And was glad Very glad to hear of the conversion of some and the confusion of others, of the victory of Christ over all opposing power, and of the overthrow of the kingdom of Satan among men. And the daughters of Judah Particular churches, or individual members of Christ’s universal church, rejoiced According to the exhortation of the prophet; Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion, for behold thy king cometh unto thee. Because of thy judgments, O Lord Thy judgments on thine enemies, whereby thou hast evinced thyself to be superior to the powers of the earth, and the gods of the nations. Not that they take pleasure in the ruin of others, but because the execution of the divine judgments upon idols and idolaters, and other daring sinners, makes way for the advancement of God’s glory, and the enlargement and establishment of Christ’s kingdom in the world. Thus, at the fall of Babylon it is said, Rejoice over her, thou heaven, and ye holy apostles and prophets, for God hath avenged you on her. And Eusebius, speaking of the times under Constantine, says, “A bright and glorious day, no cloud overshadowing it, did enlighten, with rays of heavenly light, the churches of Christ over all the earth; and among all Christians there was an inexpressible joy and a kind of celestial gladness.” Eccl. Hist., book 10. For thou art exalted above all gods As thou always wast in truth exalted, so thou hast now proved and declared thyself to be so in the eyes of the whole world, by subduing them under thy feet.

Verse 10

Psalms 97:10. Ye that love the Lord O all you that love and worship the true God, and rejoice in the establishment of his kingdom; hate evil Show your love to him by hating all sin in temper, word, and work. Thus the psalmist, “having sung the glory of the Redeemer, now delineates the duty of the redeemed. They are characterized by their love of God; they are enjoined to hate evil; the hatred of which indeed is a consequence and a sure proof of that love, when it is genuine and sincere. Religion must be rooted in the heart and spring from thence. A Christian must not only serve God outwardly, but must inwardly love him; he must not content himself with abstaining from overt acts of sin, but must truly hate it. They who do so are the saints of God, whose souls he preserveth from evil, and will finally deliver from the evil one and his associates, by a happy death and a glorious resurrection.” Horne.

Verses 11-12

Psalms 97:11-12. Light is sown for the righteous Joy and felicity, as the word light often signifies, are prepared or laid up for them, and shall in due time be reaped by them, possibly in this life, but undoubtedly in the next; and therefore the followers of Christ, who are taught to expect tribulation in this world, may well bear their afflictions with patience and cheerfulness, for, though they sow in tears, they shall, without fail, reap in joy. Rejoice in the Lord, ye righteous Let the streams of comfort which flow to you through the channel of Christ’s kingdom lead you to the fountain, and cause you to rejoice in God your Saviour; and give thanks in remembrance of his holiness In consideration of his holy and righteous nature and government, or of his faithfulness in fulfilling his promises, in sending the Messiah into the world and establishing his kingdom among men. Observe, reader, whatever is the matter of our rejoicing ought to be the matter of our thanksgiving, and particularly the holiness of God. They that hate sin themselves are glad that God hates it, in hopes that therefore he will not suffer it to have dominion over them.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 97". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-97.html. 1857.
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