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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 98

The Expositor's Bible CommentaryThe Expositor's Bible Commentary

Verses 1-9

Psalms 98:1-9

THE two preceding psalms correspond in number and division of verses. The first begins with a summons to sing to Jehovah; the second, with a proclamation that He is King. A precisely similar connection exists between this and the following psalm. Psalms 98:1-9 is an echo of Psalms 96:1-13 and Psalms 99:1-9 or Psalms 97:1-12. The number of verses in each of the second pair is nine, and in each there is a threefold division. The general theme of both pairs is the same, but with considerable modifications. The abundant allusions to older passages continue here, and the second part of Isaiah is especially familiar to the singer.

The first strophe (Psalms 98:1-3), though modelled on the first of Psalms 96:1-13, presents the theme in a different fashion. Instead of reiterating through three verses the summons to Israel to praise Jehovah, and declare His glory to the nations, this psalm passes at once from the summons to praise, in order to set forth the Divine deed which evokes the praise, and which the psalmist thinks, will shine by its own lustre to "the ends of the earth," whether it has human voices to celebrate it or not. This psalmist speaks more definitely of Jehovah’s wonders of deliverance. Israel appears rather as the recipient than as the celebrator of God’s lovingkindness. The sun shines to all nations, whether any voices say "Look," or no. Psalms 98:1 a-is from Psalms 96:1; Psalms 96:1 c-3 weave together snatches of various passages in the second part of Isaiah, especially Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 59:16; Isaiah 63:5. The remarkable expression "brought salvation to Him" (from the second passage in Isaiah) is rendered by many "helped Him," and that rendering gives the sense but obliterates the connection with "salvation," emphatically repeated in the two following verses. The return from Babylon is naturally suggested as best corresponding to the psalmist’s words. That was "the salvation of our God," who seemed to have forgotten His people, as Isaiah 49:2 represents Israel as complaining, but now, before "the eyes of all nations," has shown how. well He remembers and faithfully keeps His covenant obligations. Israel is, indeed, Jehovah’s witness, and should ring out her grateful joy; but Jehovah’s deed speaks more loudly than Israel’s proclamation of it can ever do.

The second strophe (Psalms 98:4-6) corresponds to the third of Psalms 96:1-13; but whereas there the Gentiles were summoned to bring offerings into the courts of Jehovah, here it is rather the glad tumult of vocal praise, mingled with the twang of harps, and the blare of trumpets and horns, which is present to the singer’s imagination. He hears the swelling chorus echoing through the courts. which are conceived as wide enough to hold "all the earth." He has some inkling of the great thought that the upshot of God’s redeeming self-manifestation will be glad music from a redeemed world. His call to mankind throbs with emotion, and sounds like a prelude to the melodious commingling of voice and instrument which he at once enjoins and foretells. His words are largely echoes of Isaiah. Compare Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 49:13; Isaiah 52:9, for "break forth into," and Isaiah 51:3 for "voice of melody."

The final strophe is almost identical with that of Psalms 96:1-13, but, in accordance with the variation found in Psalms 98:1-3, omits the summons to Israel to proclaim God’s Kinghood among the nations. It also inverts the order of clauses in Psalms 98:7, and in Psalms 98:7 b quotes from Psalms 24:1, where also "the fulness of it" precedes, with the result of having no verb expressed which suits the nouns, since "the world and the dwellers therein" cannot well be called on to "thunder." Instead of the "plain" and "trees of the forest" in the original, Psalms 98:8 substitutes streams and mountains. The bold figure of the streams clapping hands, in token of homage to the King {2 Kings 11:12 Psalms 47:1} occurs in Isaiah 55:12. The meeting waves are conceived of as striking against each other, with a sound resembling that of applauding palms. Psalms 98:9 is quoted from Psalms 96:1-13, with the omission of the second "He cometh" (which many versions of the LXX retain), and the substitution of "equity" for "His faithfulness."

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Psalms 98". "The Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/teb/psalms-98.html.
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