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IN the case of this psalm, the "title" is again our best guide, both with respect to the author and to the occasion of the composition. The title is unusually full, and contains such a number of minute particulars, as a later compiler or commentator would scarcely have ventured upon. The history involved in the title—reconcilable on the whole with the accounts in 2 Samuel and 1 Chronicles—is certainly not contained in those accounts. It implies an author, writing from his own knowledge of facts—an author who, if not David himself, must have been a contemporary.
The psalm itself has every characteristic of the Davidic style—liveliness, rapid transitions, terse yet comprehensive language, strong metaphors, intense feeling, hopefulness. It belongs to the time when, after his first Syrian campaign (2 Samuel 8:3-8), David was engaged in a war with Edom of a most sanguinary character (2 Samuel 8:13; 1Ki 11:15, 1 Kings 11:16; 1 Chronicles 18:12)—marked by striking vicissitudes, and at least one grievous defeat of the forces of Israel (verses 1-3, 12)—but terminating in a glorious victory, and in the subjugation and occupation of the country (2 Samuel 8:14; 1 Chronicles 18:13). The psalm is written after the great defeat, and before the fortune of war has turned. God is pleaded with (verses 1-5), reminded of the promises which he has made (verses 16-8), exhorted in the strongest terms to give his help (verses 9-11), finally pronounced a sure Helper, through whom Israel is certain to obtain complete victory. (verse 12).
There are three strophes in the psalm—
the first of five verses (verses 1-5);
the second of three (verses 6-8); and
the third of four (verses 9-12).
O God, thou hast east us off, thou hast scattered us, thou hast been displeased (comp. Psalms 44:9-11). The expressions used imply a signal defeat, which, though not mentioned in the historical books, harmonizes with the account given in 1 Kings of the severe treatment of Edom by Joab. From the fact of the defeat the psalmist infers the ground of it—God's displeasure. O turn thyself to us again; rather, O restore to us (i.e. make restoration to us) again (see the Revised Version).
Thou hast made the earth (rather, the land) to tremble. The blow struck convulsed the whole land—i.e. the people in it. It is not really an earthquake, but a panic fear, that is intended. Thou hast broken it; or, rent it. The imagery of an earthquake is kept up. Heal the breaches thereof; for it shaketh. The panic fear still continued.
Thou hast showed thy people hard things; literally, a hard thing, or harshness; i.e. severity. Thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment; or, of trembling (as in Isaiah 51:17, Isaiah 51:22); comp. Psalms 75:8; Jeremiah 25:15-17 : Jeremiah 49:12; Ezekiel 23:32-34; Zechariah 12:2. The outpouring of Divine vengeance is represented under the figure of presenting a cup, which the doomed man is forced to drink.
Thou hast given a tanner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. So most commentators. But the ancient rendering, recently revived by Professor Cheyne, is perhaps preferable. According to this, the meaning is, "Thou hast indeed given a banner to them that fear thee (see Exodus 17:15), but only that they may flee before the bow" (τοῦ φυγεῖν ἀπὸ προσώπου τόξων, LXX.). On the last occasion that the banner had been lifted, it had seemed to be, not so much a rallying point, as a signal for dispersion.
That thy beloved may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me; rather, hear us. From complaint (Psalms 60:1-4) the psalmist abruptly turns to prayer, thus closing the first strophe with a gleam of hope.
Appeal is next made in God's promises. Some suppose that a Divine oracle had been recently given to David himself, and that he here records the words of it. But, in that case, it is difficult to account for the despondent tone of Psalms 60:1-4. Hengstenberg's explanation seems preferable, that David now encourages himself by a "reference to the general aspect of the assurances given in the Pentateuch in regard to the possession of the land of Canaan in its widest extent, and to victory over hostile neighbours," and that he has his eye especially on the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49:1-33) and the blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33:1-29). If these assurances are to be depended on, Israel cannot now be about to succumb to Edom.
God hath spoken in his holiness; or, promised by his holiness (comp. Psalms 89:35). As God is holy, he cannot falsify his promises. I will rejoice, I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth; i.e. I will distribute Canaan among my people—both the western region, of which Shechem was the chief town (1 Kings 12:25), and the eastern, which contained "the valley of Succoth" (Genesis 33:17). God, having assigned the whole laud to his people (Genesis 13:14, Genesis 13:15), "meted it out" through Joshua, his servant, and gave to each tribe its inheritance.
Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine. Gilead was an old name for the territory beyond the Jordan (Genesis 37:25), especially the more northern portion of it. Manasseh had a portion of this territory assigned to him (Numbers 32:39-42; Joshua 17:1). But Manasseh had also a large inheritance on the western side of Jordan (Joshua 17:7-11). It is not quite clear whether both the divisions of Manasseh, or the eastern one only, is here intended. Ephraim also is the strength of mine head. Ephraim was the most important of the tribes next to Judah, and held the central position in the western region, forming the main strength of the northern kingdom after the separation under Jeroboam (see 1 Kings 12:25; and comp. Isaiah 7:2, Isaiah 7:5, Isaiah 7:9, Isaiah 7:17; Isaiah 9:21; Hosea 4:17; Hosea 5:7-14; Hosea 6:4-10, etc.). Judah is my lawgiver (comp. Genesis 49:10; Numbers 21:17); i.e. "my ruling tribe"—the tribe to which I have committed the government of my people" (see 1 Samuel 16:1; 2 Samuel 2:4; 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalms 78:68).
Moab is my washpot. A term of extreme contempt (see Herod; 2:172). The subjugation of Moab was prophesied by Balaam (Numbers 24:17), and effected by David (2 Samuel 8:2). Over Edom will I cast out my shoe. The reference to Ruth 4:7, Ruth 4:8, which is commonly made, is very doubtful. Probably no more is intended than that Edom will be a slave of so low a rank as only to clean the shoes of its master. The subjugation of Edom, like that of Moab, had been prophesied by Balaam (Numbers 24:18). Philistia, triumph thou because of me. The context will not allow of this rendering, since Philistia, like the other enemies of Israel, must be triumphed over, and not triumph. Translate, over Philistia is my triumphing (comp. Psalms 108:9).
Rehearsal of God's promises has raised the psalmist out of despondency, and he can now confidently call God to his assistance. Edom is to be conquered, for so God has premised (Psalms 60:8). But how? Who will lead out Israel's armies? Will God, who has lately "cast Israel off"? If not, it must he man. But "vain is the help of man" (Psalms 60:11). So the call is made that God will give help in the trouble—and with the call comes full confidence—and the triumphant cry goes forth, "Through God we shall do valiantly; for he it is that shall tread down our enemies" (Psalms 60:12).
Who will bring me into the strong city? The "strong city" of Edom was Sela, "The Cliff"—now Petra. And it was a city of enormous strength, rock hewn in the main, and guarded by frightful precipices. Who will conduct me through its strong natural and artificial defences, and give me possession of the place? Who will lead me into Edom? Who will even bring me into the country? The Edomites, flushed with their recent victory, will, of course, dispute my entrance. Who will enable me to overcome their resistance?
Wilt not thou, O God, which hadst cast us off? rather, Hast not thou, O God, cast us off? Can we expect thee to lead us, when thou hast so lately cast us off, and, as we hear it said on all sides, dost not go out with our armies? A reference, perhaps, to Psalms 44:9.
Give us help from trouble. Faith combats doubt, and, overcoming it, finds an utterance—"Give us help now, whatever thou hast done in the past." Our trouble is great. "Help us from it." For vain is the help of man. We have, therefore, no hope but in thee.
Through God we shall do valiantly. No miracle is expected or asked for. Let God look upon us favourably—let his light shine into our hearts, and then "we ourselves shall do valiantly"—we shall gain the victory—we shall accomplish the prophecy of Balaam (Numbers 24:18); and Edom shall pass into our possession. (For the fulfilment, see 2 Samuel 8:14; 1 Chronicles 18:13.) For he it is that shall tread down our enemies (comp. Psalms 44:5), which has the same meaning, "Through thy Name will we tread them under that rise up against us." (For the extent to which Edom was trodden down, see 1 Kings 11:15, 1 Kings 11:16.)
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
Despondency and its antidote.
There are heights and depths in the Divine life. We may pass quickly from the one to the other. When at the height of triumph we may be brought low. When in the depths of despondency we may be raised up. This psalm speaks of despondency. We see—
I. HOPE RISING IN THE MIDST OF DESPONDENCY. (Psalms 60:1-4.) We are apt to fix our mind on our trials. They bulk large. They press us sorely. We dwell upon their grievousness. We shrink from their effects, bewildered and dismayed (Psalms 60:3). Besides, we are too ready to think of our trials as judgments. Our sins make us afraid. God seems to be visiting us in wrath, instead of mercy. But this is our infirmity. As we turn to God with humility, hope rises in our hearts. God is not against us, but for us. If he visits us with trials, it is for our good. His banner over us is still the banner of love.
II. FAITH IN GOD'S PROMISES SUSTAINING THE SOUL IN DESPONDENCY. (Psalms 60:5-8.) The words of Moses, Samuel, and Nathan had sunk deep into the psalmist's heart. He remembered them, and was comforted. How much more reason have we to say, "God hath spoken in his holiness"! We have not only the words, that David had, but many words besides—not only the words of prophets and apostles, but the words of him of whom it was said, "Thou hast the words of eternal life." The Holy Scriptures are rich in promises (2 Peter 1:3, 2 Peter 1:4; 2 Corinthians 1:20). We may take one and another to the throne of grace, and say, "Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope. This is my comfort in my affliction" (Psalms 119:49, Psalms 119:50). Two rabbis, it is said, approaching Jerusalem, observed a fox running up the hill of Zion. Rabbi Joshua wept, but Rabbi Eliezer laughed. "Wherefore dost thou weep?" asked Eliezer. "I weep because I see what is written in the Lamentations fulfilled: 'Because of the mountain of Zion, which is desolate, the foxes walk upon it'" (Lamentations 5:18). "And therefore do I laugh," said Eliezer; "for when I see with my own eyes that God has fulfilled his threatenings to the letter, I have thereby a pledge that not one of his promises shall fail, for he is ever more ready to show mercy than judgment."
III. PRAYER TO GOD GAINING THE VICTORY OVER DESPONDENCY. (Verses 9-12.) There are great things promised, but how are they to be performed? If we had to do with man, we might have doubts and fears. But we have to do with God, and he is both able and willing to fulfil his word. Remembering his character and his works, we rise above all desponding and depressing influences. Committing ourselves
to the keeping of the Lord of hosts, we go forth to the fight with brave hearts. "Jehovah-Nissi" is our watchword, and we are able to say, "Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57).—W.F.
HOMILIES BY C. SHORT
Assurance in prayer.
I. THE PRAYER OF THE REJECTED FOR RESTORATION. (Psalms 60:1-5.) The grounds of the prayer are:
1. Their great need. Felt themselves as if cast off—the very earth trembling with their calamity. They had been reduced to the helplessness of one overcome with wine.
2. The faithfulness of God to his promises was their banner. (Psalms 60:4.) They could pray because they carried this banner.
3. They could hope and pray on account of their relation to God. (Psalms 60:5.) They were beloved of God, and could urge the claim of affection.
II. WHATEVER LOSSES WE SUFFER WE HAVE VIRTUALLY UNIVERSAL POSSESSIONS. (Psalms 60:6-8.) "As having nothing, and yet possessing all things." All things are yours: things present, and things to come," etc.
III. THE SPIRIT AND POWER OF GOD MUST LEAD US INTO THE NATURAL POSSESSION.
1. God alone can comfort us in trouble. (Psalms 60:11.)
2. God alone can give us the victory over our strongest foes. (Psalms 60:12.) "If God be for us, who can be against us?"—S.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 60". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 11 / Ordinary 16