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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Psalms 89

Verse 1

Psalms 89:0.

The Psalmist praiseth God for his covenant, for his wonderful power, for his care of his church, for his favour to the kingdom of David: then, complaining of contrary events, he expostulateth, prayeth, and blesseth God.

Maschil of Ethan the Ezrahite.

Title. האזרחי לאיתן משׂכיל maskiil leeithan haezrachii. The author of this psalm lived either in the time of Jehoiachin or Zedekiah, whose misfortunes he laments very pathetically. It appears, says Mudge, by the conclusion from Psalms 89:38, to be written in some great distress of one of the kings of the line of David; in which the author reminds God of his gracious promises to David and his posterity. It is conducted with great skill. The Jewish interpreters themselves apply several passages of it to the Messiah.

Verse 3

Psalms 89:3. I have made a covenant with my chosen Mudge reads this and the following verse in a parenthesis, and supposes the sense of the 2nd to be continued to the 5th. Thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the heavens, is explained by the 36th and 37th verses. Houbigant prefixes to the 3rd verse, For thou hast said. It is very evident, that these words can be understood of David but in a limited sense: they refer principally to the Messiah.

Verse 6

Psalms 89:6. Who among the sons of the mighty, &c.— i.e. Of the most mighty princes upon earth: But some understand this of the angels, who, in Job 1:6 are particularly styled the Sons of God.

Verse 8

Psalms 89:8. Or to thy faithfulness round about thee? And thy faithfulness encompasseth thee. This poetical phrase seems to allude to the expression in the foregoing verse, concerning the saints or angels that are about him; and signifies, that as they wait upon God, and execute his will; so, far above the strength of those, God's fidelity, exactly encompass him, and he is ready to perform whatever he has promised.

Verse 10

Psalms 89:10. Thou hast broken Rahab in pieces This refers to the destruction of the Egyptians in the Red Sea. "Thou troddest under foot the pride of the Egyptian crocodile, with as much ease as one treads upon the carcase of a man slaughtered in the field of battle;" for it should be rendered, Thou crushedst under foot Rahab, as one who is slain. Mudge. Kennicott would render it, Thou, like a man of war, hast broken Rahab, or Egypt, in pieces. See Exodus 3:6.

Verse 12

Psalms 89:12. Tabor and Hermon These two famous mountains of Judea, the first on the west, and the second on the east of it, are here put for the eastern and western quarters of the world. Shall rejoice in thy name, is a figurative and poetical expression, signifying, "They shall afford matter for thy praise, who enrichest them by thy bountiful providence." We may render it, The east and the west.

Verse 14

Psalms 89:14. Are the habitation of thy throne Or, the preparation. God's throne is here elegantly represented as prepared by justice and equity, by mercy and fidelity. By these all his judicatures are managed, and these are the precones, or heralds, who, whenever he administers justice, go before, and erect his tribunal. Mudge, and several others, render it, are the basis of thy throne. See Psalms 85:13.

Verse 15

Psalms 89:15. That know the joyful sound This probably refers to the trumpet, which was always used by the express command of God at the Jewish festivals. And as the ideas in the preceding verses are taken from God's deliverance of the people from Egypt, and his august appearance on Mount Sinai, where the awful trumpet proclaiming his presence was heard; so here the joyful sound may refer to that trumpet, which in the public worship, as heretofore on Mount Sinai, proclaimed the approach of God, and summoned the people to his worship. The ideas in the following verses have the same reference. Compare Numbers 23:21.

Verse 18

Psalms 89:18. For the Lord is our defence, &c.— Mudge connects this with the following verse thus: Yes, to the Lord belongs our shield, and to the Holy One of Israel our king: Psalms 89:19. From the time that thou spakest in vision to thy favourite, and saidst, &c. Our shield, says he, is explained by the king; as in Psalms 84:9. "He is the Lord's, the Lord owns him; has taken him as his own, under his special protection; from the time he spoke to the prophet Nathan the prophesy which follows with regard to David." Nathan was favoured with God's immediate revelation, 2 Samuel 7:0.

Verse 22

Psalms 89:22. Shall not exact upon him Shall not oppress him; Mudge. Or, according to the original, deceive him.

Verse 25

Psalms 89:25. I will set his hand also in the sea, &c.— i.e. "His empire shall extend from the Mediterranean sea to the rivers Euphrates and Tigris." See 2Sa 8:1 and Psalms 72:8.

Verses 27-29

Psalms 89:27-29. Also I will make him my first-born, &c.— I will deal with him as with an eldest son, to whom a double portion of honour and possessions is due; and advance him to greater dignity than any other prince in the world. This, with what follows in the two next verses, can properly and strictly be applied only to Christ; the firstborn of every creatures the most eminent person that ever the world saw; and to whom all power was given in heaven and earth. Matthew 28:18. Colossians 1:15.

Verse 35

Psalms 89:35. Once have I sworn, &c.— One thing I swear by my holiness; (I will not lie unto David:) Psalms 89:36. His seed shall endure for ever, &c. Psalms 89:37. As the moon, it shall be fixed firm for ever, and it shall be a faithful witness in heaven: i.e. "The moon shall be a faithful witness to this promise of God, so long as it continues in the heavens." See Mudge and Houbigant.

Verse 38

Psalms 89:38. Thou hast been wroth with thine anointed One of the posterity of David, and his lawful successor in the kingdom. These verses are applicable to Zedekiah. See 2 Kings 24:20; 2Ki 25:6-7 and Lamentations 4:20.

Verse 39

Psalms 89:39. Thou hast made void the covenant, &c.— We may piously say, that it is not in God's power to break any promise he hath made, or for his word to fail in performing any good to mankind, which we have any warrant to expect from him: but we may lawfully believe, that it is in our own power to render all those promises ineffectual to us, and to drive those blessings from us, which he is willing to confer upon us. Let his gracious purposes be never so much declared on our behalf, it always supposes that we shall be willing to receive, as well as he to give; and that we will demean ourselves in such a manner, that neither his justice nor his honour shall suffer in his bounty towards us: but if we behave ourselves so wickedly, that his honour cannot subsist without our exemplary punishment, and we yet contemn with obstinacy and perverseness that chastisement which he inflicts, and raise the account of our iniquities higher than it was before he afflicted us; it is we who violate his promises, and not He; and we have sturdily resisted his good inclinations, and not suffered him to be propitious to us; and then he will wipe us out of his memory, and deface all those records which put him in mind of us, and of his gracious resolutions towards us. And if God hath cast off his own chosen people, and withdrawn his loving-kindness from them; if all the promises he made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and which he renewed and enlarged so solemnly to David, be cancelled, which we are not bound to believe, and may charitably and scripturally hope the contrary; I hope we may warrantably presume that this change in their fate, and their being left an outcast nation, scattered over the face of the earth, hath proceeded from that cause, that they drove God from them before they were themselves driven from their country, and because they have not yet a mind to return to him.

Verse 40

Psalms 89:40. Thou hast broken down all his hedges Thou hast broken all his fences or walls: thou hast made his strong-holds a ruin. Mudge and Green. See Psalms 80:12.

Verse 45

Psalms 89:45. The days of his youth hast thou shortened Some understand this verse as relating to Jehoiachin, who in his youth was made a slave: (See 2 Kings 24:8; 2 Kings 24:20.) and some to Zedekiah, who was condemned as a rebel to lose his eyes, and to remain a prisoner all his days: and thus the days, the prosperous days of them both, were shortened, and both of them were covered with shame.

Verse 47

Psalms 89:47. Remember how short my time is Remember, as to my own part, what my being is. See Psalms 39:4, Or, Remember what my age is. All men, in the next clause, means "all of us who labour under this wretched captivity." In vain, signifies as if we were made for nothing else but to be miserable, and die. The Psalmist makes use of the next verse as an argument to incline God to suffer the captive Jews to spend the short time which remained of their lives in a more comfortable condition. From the hand of the grave, is rendered very properly by Mudge, from the power of the grave.

Verse 50

Psalms 89:50. How I do bear in my bosom, &c.— How I bear in my bosom all wherewith mighty nations, Psalms 89:51. Wherewith thine enemies, O Lord, reproach; wherewith they reproach the steps of thine anointed. Mudge; who observes, that by this translation an elegant repetition of the sentence is made, as in the song of Deborah and other places. The steps may mean the measures, "Whatever thine anointed does, or wherever he goes, they set him at defiance; they speak opprobriously:" But perhaps it maybe understood more simply, "They pursue the footsteps of thy anointed, wherever he treads, with defiance and opprobrious language." The mention of himself here, and in the 47th verse, shews the author to be of consequence. According to the Chaldee, this means the slowness of the footsteps of the Messiah. The Jews were reproached by their enemies, as if the promises upon which they so firmly depended, with relation to their Messiah, whom they expected to rescue and redeem them out of their captivity, had now utterly deceived them. See Houbigant.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, The Psalmist opens with praise, notwithstanding the desolations before him, which so deeply affected and afflicted him; for no troubles should untune our hearts: we can be in no state or condition, when we have not matter for a spiritual song; and shall get more ease of heart by praising than complaining.

1. The Psalmist declares his purpose to celebrate with ceaseless praise the mercies and faithfulness of the Lord. However dark the present providences of God appeared, he doubted not his boundless mercy, nor distrusted his faithfulness; and therefore not only his lips should praise, but he would make known God's mercy and truth, and leave them upon record to future generations.
2. He professes his own faith and hope in God. For I have said, confiding in God's promise, in opposition to all appearances, Mercy shall be built up for ever, the tabernacle of David be revived from its ruins, and flourish through God's mercy: thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens, his promises to the faithful enduring as the heavens, and his faithfulness most eminently proved, when his saints shall be taken up to heaven; and herein with unshaken confidence he rested.

2nd, The Psalmist reiterates the praises of God; and most worthy he appears to be adored, and had in everlasting remembrance.
1. Heaven and earth must celebrate his glory. The heavens, with all their bright inhabitants, shall praise thy wonders, or, that wonderful work of thine, the covenant of grace established in Christ with lost sinners, or that stupendous incarnation of the Son of God: thy faithfulness also in the congregation of the saints, earth as well as heaven unites in adoration, and saints seek to emulate the service of angels; and most especially bounden are they to join in the song of praise, when assembled in the great congregation, where God has promised the especial presence of his grace, and is to be approached with filial reverence and godly fear. Note; They who ever hope for heaven, must begin the service upon earth. If we have now no joy in God's worship and praises, how can we expect happiness there, where this is the everlasting employment of the glorified soul.

2. Most abundant reason there is, why God should be thus adored,
[1.] Because his greatness is beyond compare. Heaven yields none like him; the highest archangels are infinitely more beneath his perfection, than they are above the worm, the meanest worm which crawls: much less can earth, among its mightiest sons, produce a rival to Him who sitteth on the circle of the heavens, and the inhabitants of the world are but as grasshoppers before him.
[2.] His strength and faithfulness are most transcendantly great. None can do what he doth, nor did ever any trust him and were disappointed. Several instances of this his almighty power are here given:
(1.) In his controul of the most unruly elements, Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them: he hath appointed their bounds; and though the foaming billows lift their heads, they cannot pass them, but in an instant at his word subside, and creep in murmurs to the shore. By this act of omnipotence did Jesus manifest his godhead and glory. Matthew 8:24-27.

(2.) In his victories over Egypt, and his people's enemies, when Pharaoh, that Rahab, that proud one, was destroyed, and all his hosts, as corpses, scattered on the shore; an emblem of the victories of Jesus over Satan and the powers of darkness, and of his destruction of the anti-christian foe, when Babylon mystical, as Rahab, shall be broken in pieces.

(3.) In his universal dominion over all the creatures. The heavens and earth, and all who dwell in them, own his authority, and regard him as their Creator: from pole to pole he is Lord of all, and Tabor and Hermon rejoice in his name, all the fertility, strength, and beauty they possess, are from his gift; and if Tabor, as is generally supposed, was the mount where our Lord was transfigured, it might with peculiar propriety be said to rejoice in him.

(4.) In his providential government. Thou hast a mighty arm, able to save and to destroy; strong is thy hand, and high is thy right hand, to preserve, protect, and chastise his faithful people for their good; or to punish and overwhelm his enemies with judgments irresistible; and withal, most holy, just, and good are all his dispensations. Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne, the administration of the kingdom of his providence is altogether righteous and equitable. Mercy and truth shall go before thy face; mercy in pardoning the perishing sinner, truth in performing all his promises; and justly do these exalt him, and render him worthy to receive blessing, and glory, and majesty, and might, and dominion, for ever and ever.

3rdly, The blessedness of God's faithful people is here described; as there is no god like him, so no people so happy as those who know him, love him, and serve him faithfully.
1. They know the joyful sound of gospel grace, like the shout of a victorious army, Num 23:21 or the welcome trump of jubilee, proclaiming victory over sin, death, and hell, and liberty from the bondage of corruption, and speaking pardon, peace, and reconciliation between the offended God and the sinful soul.

2. They shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance, under the special tokens of his favour, enjoying the most endeared communion with him, and walking in the comforts of the Holy Ghost.

3. Their joy shall be permanent. In thy name shall they rejoice all the day, every day they will have cause to do so, in further and clearer manifestations of the divine grace and love; and in the darkest hour, still they may find matter for a spiritual song.

4. Their exultation will be great; endued with divine strength, which will make them more than conquerors over all the enemies of their souls; they will appear glorious in the eyes of God, in that beauty and comeliness which he hath put upon them.
5. Their relation to God makes them both safe and honourable. For the Lord is our defence, or shield, to protect and defend us from every evil; and the Holy One of Israel is our king, to rule and guide us in the paths of peace under his happy sway. Blessed, for ever blessed, are the people who are in such a case!

4thly, The covenant that God had made with David is here enlarged upon, as a ground of comfort in the present low estate of the royal family. And herein especial relation is had to Christ, and his church, to whom alone the things here mentioned are entirely applicable. We have,
1. The glorious personage pointed out. Then thou spakest in vision to thy holy one, to Samuel, who was appointed to anoint David king, 1 Samuel 16:1., or Nathan, 2 Samuel 7:4; 2Sa 7:29 or concerning thy Holy One, the Messiah, to whom gave all the prophets witness; and to him most emphatically belongs the character here described: The Mighty One, able to save to the uttermost, chosen out of the people, God's elect, in whom his soul delighteth; one in our nature, singled out to be united to the eternal Word, and make one Christ: Found and provided of God, anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, for the discharge of all his offices of prophet, priest, and king: Help laid upon him, that he might be fully qualified for the arduous work of the salvation of the faithful into the whole image of God from the depths of wretchedness and weakness into which mankind are fallen; God's servant willingly undertaking the business assigned him, and exalted by him to the highest place of honour and dignity at his right hand, in our nature, all power being committed to him in heaven and in earth, and angels, principalities, and powers made subject unto him. 2. The great and precious promises made to this mighty and exalted Messiah. [1.] For himself God promises, (1.) That in all his undertakings he shall be supported with the arm of Omnipotence; enabled to encounter and overcome all difficulties; be ready armed against every temptation, and unmoved under every assault. (2.) He shall be made victorious over his enemies. Satan, with all his wiles, shall not prevail, nor be able to exalt upon him more than as the sinner's surety he undertook to bear. God will beat down all his foes before him, whether the powers of darkness, or the Jewish people who conspired against him, or the antichristian oppressors of his people: all who hate him must be confounded at his feet; bow down, and feel his iron rod breaking them in pieces as a potter's vessel, and dooming them to the everlasting burnings, the just punishment of their sins. Note; The end of all the enemies of the Redeemer and his people is, to perish for ever. (3.) God will never fail him in his undertaking. My faithfulness and my mercy shall be with him: all the promises shall be made good to him, and all the blessings engaged for in the covenant of grace be lodged in his hands for his faithful people's use and benefit; so that out of his fulness we may all receive, and find all the promises of God in him, yea, and Amen. (4.) He shall be advanced to great honour and extensive dominion. In my name shall his horn be exalted, high in power and glory: I will set his hand in the sea, and his right hand in the rivers: both continent and islands, sea and rivers, with all that dwell in them, and occupy their business there, shall own his sway, and submit to his government. (5.) He shall be owned of God as his Son, as his first-born, and enjoy the blessings of that endeared relation. He shall cry unto me, Thou art my Father, by eternal generation, as he is very God of very God; or rather as Mediator, for whom a body was prepared, when in the fulness of time it was fulfilled, This day have I begotten thee, Psalms 2:7. My God, whose power and protection were engaged for him and over him, Joh 20:17 and the rock of my salvation, to carry him through his arduous undertaking, and enable him to accomplish it for his own and his faithful people's glory. Also I will make him my firstborn, the most eminent and exalted in the human nature of all the sons of God, he having in all things the pre-eminence, higher than the kings of the earth, for he is King of kings, and Lord of lords, Revelation 19:16. His throne exalted over all, and that for ever and ever, for his kingdom is an everlasting kingdom.

[2.] For his faithful followers, God promises, in general, that his seed shall endure for ever, which cannot well be applied to David and his posterity, which, though the throne long continued in his family, are now no more upon it, unless considered as still subsisting in the Messiah, whose throne is established for ever. But it most properly belongs to faithful believers, the spiritual seed of Christ, who shall have a people, to the praise of the glory of his grace, while sun and moon endureth; and, when these luminaries are extinguished, shall still reign over his faithful people through all the ages of eternity.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 89". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.