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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 68

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Psalms 68:0


The God of Sinai and of the Sanctuary MT Intro For the choir director; with stringed instruments. A Psalm of David. A Song The Glory of God in His Goodness to Israel Liturgy for a Festival Celebration in the Temple A National Song of Triumph An Epic of Israel's Glory
Psalms 68:1-4 Psalms 68:1-3 Psalms 68:1-3 Psalms 68:1-3 Psalms 68:1-2
Psalms 68:3-4
Psalms 68:4 Psalms 68:4 Psalms 68:4
Psalms 68:5-6 Psalms 68:5-6 Psalms 68:5-6 Psalms 68:5-6 Psalms 68:5-6
Psalms 68:7-10 Psalms 68:7-10 Psalms 68:7-10 Psalms 68:7-10 Psalms 68:7-8
Psalms 68:9-10
Psalms 68:11-14 Psalms 68:11-14 Psalms 68:11-14 Psalms 68:11-14 Psalms 68:11-12
Psalms 68:13-14
Psalms 68:15-18 Psalms 68:15-16 Psalms 68:15-16 Psalms 68:15-16 Psalms 68:15-16
Psalms 68:17-18 Psalms 68:17-20 Psalms 68:17-18 Psalms 68:17-18
Psalms 68:19-23 Psalms 68:19-20 Psalms 68:19-20 Psalms 68:19
Psalms 68:20-21
Psalms 68:21-23 Psalms 68:21-23 Psalms 68:21-23
Psalms 68:22-23
Psalms 68:24-27 Psalms 68:24-27 Psalms 68:24-27 Psalms 68:24-27 Psalms 68:24-25
Psalms 68:26-27
Psalms 68:28-31 Psalms 68:28-31 Psalms 68:28-31 Psalms 68:28-31 Psalms 68:28-29
Psalms 68:30-31
Psalms 68:32-35 Psalms 68:32-35b Psalms 68:32-35c Psalms 68:32-35c Psalms 68:32-34a
Psalms 68:34-35c
Psalms 68:35c Psalms 68:35d Psalms 68:35d Psalms 68:35d

READING CYCLE THREE (see “Guide to Good Bible Reading”)


This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. It is difficult to find a unifying theme in this Psalm. It is possibly an anthology of YHWH's acts on Israel's behalf (i.e., Exodus, Conquest, establishment of temple in Jerusalem). The NASB Study Bible (p. 805) calls it “A processional liturgy celebrating the glorious and triumphant rule of Israel's God.” If this is correct, this Psalm is similar to Nehemiah 9:0.

B. Some scholars see this Psalm as a composite with no theme.

1. NRSV, The New Oxford Annotated Bible (p. 728) says, “This is the most difficult of the psalms to interpret, and there is no general agreement either as to its meaning as a whole or in many of its details.”

2. The UBS Handbook on Psalms (p. 577) says, “both as to text and meaning this psalm is the most difficult of all psalms to understand and interpret. There is no discernable unity in the composition.”

3. The Jewish Study Bible (p. 1353) says, “Its vocabulary includes fifteen words found no where else in the Bible, plus other rare words, adding to the difficulty of interpreting it. Indeed, much of it remains obscure, and many consider it to be the most difficult psalm in the Psalter.”

4. One reason for the supposition of composition is the numerous names for Deity (see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY) used.

a. Elohim (BDB 43), Psalms 68:1, Psalms 68:2, Psalms 68:3, Psalms 68:4, Psalms 68:5, Psalms 68:6, Psalms 68:7, Psalms 68:8 (twice), 9,10,15,16,17,18,21,24 (twice),26,28,31, 32,34,35 (twice).

b. Yah (BDB 43), Psalms 68:4, Psalms 68:18

c. Eloah (BDB 43), Psalms 68:8, Psalms 68:28 (singular of Elohim)

d. Adonai (BDB 10), Psalms 68:11, Psalms 68:17, Psalms 68:19, Psalms 68:20, Psalms 68:22, Psalms 68:32

e. Shaddai (BDB 994), Psalms 68:14 (the name of YHWH for the Patriarchs, cf. Exodus 6:3)

f. El (BDB 42), Psalms 68:19, Psalms 68:20 (twice), 35

g. YHWH (BDB 217), Psalms 68:20, Psalms 68:26

h. King (BDB 572 II), Psalms 68:24

C. Possible outline by themes.

1. military victory

a. Psalms 69:1-4 (unnamed enemies possibly Wilderness Wanderings, Psalms 68:4b)

b. Psalms 68:11-14 (unnamed kings who invade but are defeated)

c. Psalms 68:19-23 (unnamed enemies)

d. Psalms 68:28-31 (Egypt)

2. covenant focus

a. help the least, Psalms 68:5-6

(1) orphans

(2) widows

(3) poor

(4) lonely

b. abundance, Psalms 68:7-10

c. Sinai, Psalms 68:15-18

3. the temple

a. procession of King and people of Israel to the temple, Psalms 68:24-27

b. all peoples praise God (i.e., theme of Psalms 65-68) who reigns from the sanctuary (i.e., Jerusalem, Zion, Mt. Moriah, temple), Psalms 68:32-35

Therefore, I would guess this Psalm is denoting a military victory with a procession to the temple; date unsure!

Verses 1-4

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 68:1-4 1Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, And let those who hate Him flee before Him. 2As smoke is driven away, so drive them away; As wax melts before the fire, So let the wicked perish before God. 3But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; Yes, let them rejoice with gladness. 4Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Lift up a song for Him who rides through the deserts,

Whose name is the Lord, and exult before Him.

Psalms 68:1-4 This first strophe has several Qal imperfects which may be used in a jussive sense. The verbs “May. . .” and “Let. . .” are markers of this grammatical form.

1. let God arise BDB 877, KB 1086, Qal imperfect

2. let His enemies be scattered BDB 806, KB 918, Qal imperfect

3. let those who hate Him flee before Him BDB 630, KB 681, Qal imperfect

4. let the wicked perish BDB 1, KB 2, Qal imperfect

5. let the righteous be glad BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal imperfect

6. let them exult before God BDB 763, KB 836, Qal imperfect

7. let them rejoice with gladness BDB 965, KB 1314, Qal imperfect

Notice the different ways of characterizing God's enemies.

1. enemies, Psalms 68:1a BDB 33, KB 38, Qal active participle (lit. “those hostile to”)

2. “those who hate Him,” Psalms 68:1b BDB 971, KB 1338, Piel participle

3. the wicked, Psalms 68:2c BDB 957

They are to “be scattered,” “flee,” “driven away,” “melted,” “perish,” but the righteous will

1. be glad, Psalms 68:3a

2. exult, Psalms 68:3a

3. rejoice with gladness, Psalms 68:3; Psalms 68:3b

4. sing to God, Psalms 68:4a BDB 1010, KB 1479, Qal imperative

5. sing praises to His name, Psalms 68:4a BDB 274, KB 273, Piel imperative

6. cast up a highway for Him, Psalms 68:4b BDB 699, KB 757, Qal imperative

7. exult before Him, Psalms 68:4c BDB 759, KB 831, Qal imperative

Psalms 68:1 “Let God (Elohim). . .arise” This could be understood in two senses.

1. arise from His throne so as to act

2. the ark of the covenant being carried into battle before the army of Israel (cf. Numbers 10:35)

Psalms 68:2 Several metaphors of defeat.

1. like smoke evaporating

2. like smoke before a strong wind

3. like wax melting at YHWH's presence (cf. Psalms 97:5; Micah 1:4)

4. perishing (i.e., cause to vanish, BDB 1)

Psalms 68:4 This verse has four imperatives which denote the actions of the righteous.

1. sing to God temple activity

2. sing praises to His name temple activity

3. cast up a highway for Him royal metaphor of preparation, cf. Isaiah 35:6-10; Isaiah 40:3-4; Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10

4. exult before Him temple activity

The unifying theme of this Psalm is temple worship (cf. Psalms 68:5, Psalms 68:24-27, Psalms 68:29, Psalms 68:35).

“who rides through the deserts” The concept of YHWH riding on the clouds (cf. Psalms 68:33) is an allusion to Ba'al, the storm god of the Canaanite pantheon who brought rain. Often the titles of pagan gods are attributed to YHWH, who is the only true God (cf. Deuteronomy 33:26; Isaiah 19:1).

The MT has “deserts” (BDB 787) but KB 879 suggests “clouds” from Ugaritic root (cf. Psalms 104:3). This fits the context best (cf. NKJV, NRSV, TEV, NJB, JPSOA, REB, cf. Psalms 18:9-15).

The ASV takes the root ערב (BDB 787) as referring to “Arabia” (cf. 2 Chronicles 17:11; 2 Chronicles 21:16; 2 Chronicles 22:1; 2 Chronicles 26:7). See Contextual Insights, C. 1.

The LXX takes the root מערב (BDB 591 II) meaning “west.”

The Targums, followed by the Peshitta and late King James, has “heaven,” cf. Psalms 68:33.

Verses 5-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 68:5-6 5A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows, Is God in His holy habitation. 6God makes a home for the lonely; He leads out the prisoners into prosperity, Only the rebellious dwell in a parched land.

Psalms 68:5-6 Notice the types of persons God acts as advocate on their behalf (i.e., Exodus 22:23).

1. orphans Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 24:17; Psalms 146:9; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 7:6; James 1:27

2. widows Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 14:29; Deuteronomy 24:17; Psalms 146:9; Isaiah 1:17; Jeremiah 7:6; James 1:27

3. lonely BDB 402, KB 405, from Arabic “to be alone”

4. poor Job 31:16-20; Psalms 69:33 (lit. “bondman,” BDB 64); YHWH provides for the “needy” (BDB 776) in Psalms 68:10

Notice that in Psalms 68:6 there is a distinction between the characteristic, ongoing actions of God

1. makes a home (lit. “causes to dwell”) BDB 442, KB 444, Hiphil participle

2. leads out BDB 422, KB 425, Hiphil participle

for the poor and needy as contrasted with the permanent dwelling (BDB 1014, KB 1496, Qal perfect) of the stubborn/rebellious who will not change (BDB 710, KB 770, Qal participle) and who will dwell in a “parched land” (BDB 850, only here in the OT, but which is common imagery of the lack of YHWH's presence and a sign of His judgment, cf. Psalms 78:17; Psalms 107:34, Psalms 107:40).

“the rebellious dwell in a parched land” One wonders if these rebels are the same people referred to in Psalms 68:1-2. But the context of Psalms 68:5-6 implies they are unfaithful covenant Israelites.

Note that prosperity marks the faithful followers, while lack of rain marks the rebels. This type of theology based on covenant obedience (cf. Leviticus 26:0; Deuteronomy 27-30) is known as “the two ways” (cf. Psalms 68:7-10; Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalms 1:0).

Verses 7-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 68:7-10 7O God, when You went forth before Your people, When You marched through the wilderness, Selah. 8The earth quaked; The heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God; Sinai itself quaked at the presence of God, the God of Israel. 9You shed abroad a plentiful rain, O God; You confirmed Your inheritance when it was parched. 10Your creatures settled in it; You provided in Your goodness for the poor, O God.

Psalms 68:7-10 The emphasis on “the two ways” continues. This strophe seems to merge

1. the Wilderness Wandering Period (i.e., Israel led by YHWH in the cloud, cf. Exodus 13:21; Exodus 14:19, Exodus 14:24; Psalms 78:14; Psalms 105:39) and miraculously provided for (i.e., water, manna, quail)

2. the agricultural abundance of the Promised Land (i.e., the trans-Jordan and Canaan)

Psalms 68:7 “when You went forth before Your people” This is an idiom of “holy war.” The battles were YHWH's victory. He went before His people into battle (cf. Judges 4:14; 2 Samuel 5:24). This was often symbolized as the ark of the covenant being carried by Levites at the head of the army.

“When You marched through the wilderness” This implies the Wilderness Wandering Period (cf. Judges 5:4-5). YHWH protected, guided, provided all Israel needed as they wandered some forty years before entering Canaan because of their unbelief (cf. Numbers 13-14). YHWH was so attentive to Israel during this time that the later rabbis called it “the honeymoon period between YHWH and Israel.”

“Selah” See note at Psalms 3:2 and Introduction to Psalms, VII.

Psalms 68:8 “The earth quaked” This was both a metaphor for YHWH's presence (cf. Joel 2:10; Matthew 27:51) and a literal physical manifestation of His presence (cf. Exodus 19:16-18; Judges 5:4-5).

Notice that “God of Sinai” (i.e., the giving of the law, cf. Exodus 19-20) is parallel with the “God of Israel.” The author uses several different names for “God” (see Contextual Insights, B, 4). The uniqueness of Israel was the presence of YHWH (see Special Topic: Monotheism) and His revelation of Himself through deed, promise, and written revelation (the OT).

Psalms 68:9 “Your inheritance” This term (BDB 635) could refer to

1. the covenant people (cf. Deuteronomy 32:9; 1 Kings 8:51; Joel 3:2; Jeremiah 10:16)

2. the land of Canaan (cf. Psalms 79:1; Jeremiah 2:7)

The term “land” (BDB 75, KB 90) is used of all the earth (cf. Exodus 19:5) but especially of Canaan (cf. Leviticus 25:23; Deuteronomy 32:43; 2 Chronicles 7:20; Isaiah 14:2, Isaiah 14:25; Ezekiel 36:5). See SPECIAL TOPIC: LAND, COUNTRY, EARTH.

Psalms 68:10

NASB“creatures settled in it” NKJV“Your congregation dwelt in it” NRSV“your flock found a dwelling in it” TEV“your people made their home there” LXX“your animals live in it” NJB“Your family found a home” JPSOA“Your tribe dwells there”

The LXX translated this as “animals,” but the feminine (BDB 312) means “a related community” (cf. 2 Samuel 23:13; 1 Chronicles 11:15).

Verses 11-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 68:11-14 11The Lord gives the command; The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host: 12”Kings of armies flee, they flee, And she who remains at home will divide the spoil!” 13When you lie down among the sheepfolds, You are like the wings of a dove covered with silver, And its pinions with glistening gold. 14When the Almighty scattered the kings there, It was snowing in Zalmon.

Psalms 68:11-14 This strophe, like Psalms 68:1-4 and 19-23, has a military theme. Because of Psalms 68:11b and 12b it may refer to (1) Joshua's conquest of Canaan or (2) an invasion of Canaan/Israel that was defeated.

Psalms 68:11-12 This refers to the news of the divinely-given victory. The quote of the women who bore the good news is recorded in Psalms 68:12. Women rejoicing over a military victory and shouting about God's acts is also recorded in the “Song of Miriam” in Exodus 15:20-21.

NASB, NKJV“she who remains at home” NRSV, TEV, NRSV, REB“the women at home” NJB“the fair ones at home” JPSOA“housewives”

The MT has “pastures” (BDB 627 II) but all English translations change the root to “women.”

1. pastures נוה

2. women נצוה

Psalms 68:13 This verse is understood in several ways.

1. the dove (cf. Psalms 68:13b-c) is a name for YHWH, as is Shaddai (i.e., Almighty) NJB

2. it is a sarcastic allusion to the fact that some did not go to war (i.e., 13a, TEV; cf. Judges 5:15-16)

3. it is a way of referring to victorious Israel

4. it is part of the spoils of battle (i.e., captured carved/molded treasure, possibly related to the worship of Ishtar, Astarte)

5. a reference to the clothing of the women messengers of Psalms 68:11 (Kidner, Tyndale Commentary, p. 259)

6. the war banners of the fleeing enemy (IVP Bible Background Commentary, p. 538)

7. the release of doves was part of the victory celebration (F. F. Bruce, Answers to Questions, pp. 23-24)

“sheepfolds” This word (BDB 1046, KB 1637) is rare. This translation is based on Judges 5:16. A similar word is found in Ezekiel 40:43, translated “hooks.” It could mean “cooking fire” or “cooking pot” (BDB 1046).

Psalms 68:14 “the Almighty” See Contextual Insights, B, 4).

NASB, NRSV“there” NKJV“in it”

The MT has a feminine preposition (BDB 88) which seems to link back to Psalms 68:10 (i.e., the place where the community of YHWH's inheritance dwells).

“Zalmon” This is a mountain near Shechem (cf. Judges 9:48). BDB suggests it refers to a mountain east of the Jordan. This is because of the name “Bashan” in Psalms 68:15.

The NJB translates it as “Dark Mountain,” because of an Akkadian root related to one of David's men from the tribe Benjamin (cf. 2 Samuel 23:28).

The ABD (p. 1039) adds a third suggestion, that it comes from an Arabic root meaning “light” or “splendor.”

The reference to “snowing” is also problematic. It could refer to

1. a divine act during the battle, like the rain of Judges 4-5

2. figurative of sowing a defeated place with salt (cf. Judges 9:45)

3. figurative of he bleached bones of the dead soldiers (IDB, vol. 4, p. 933)

4. a way to designate the historical date of the defeat of the invaders

5. the verb “snow” is a Hiphil jussive in form, therefore, “let it snow on Zalmon” (i.e., a predictive sign of the divine victory)

6. the enemy's weapons lying on the ground abandoned as they fled (NASB Study Bible, p. 806)

Verses 15-18

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 68:15-18 15A mountain of God is the mountain of Bashan; A mountain of many peaks is the mountain of Bashan. 16Why do you look with envy, O mountains with many peaks, At the mountain which God has desired for His abode? Surely the Lord will dwell there forever. 17The chariots of God are myriads, thousands upon thousands; The Lord is among them as at Sinai, in holiness. 18You have ascended on high, You have led captive Your captives; You have received gifts among men, Even among the rebellious also, that the Lord God may dwell there.

Psalms 68:15-18 This strophe is about Mt. Sinai (i.e., Mt. Horeb) as God's special dwelling place. Other mountains of other nations are jealous (cf. Psalms 68:16).

Psalms 68:15

NASB, NKJV, NJB, LXX“a mountain of God” NRSV, TEV“O mighty mountain” JPSOA“O majestic mountain” REB“a lofty hill”

The Hebrew term Elohim (BDB 43) can be used in an intensive sense (BDB 43, #2c, cf. Job 1:16).

This same mountain is called “a mountain of many peaks” in the next line of poetry. This term (BDB 148, KB 174) is found only here in the OT. It may mean

1. many peaks (i.e., a mountain range)

2. round peak

Psalms 68:16b,c Usually YHWH”s permanent dwelling place is the ark of the covenant, which came to abide in Jerusalem on Mt. Moriah (cf. Deuteronomy 12:5; Psalms 87:1-2; Psalms 132:13-14), but here we are speaking of the Exodus. YHWH manifested Himself on Mt. Sinai/Mt. Horeb (cf. Exodus 19-20), where He gave the law to Moses before there was an ark of the covenant.

“look with envy” This is a personification of the jealous mountains of Bashan. The verb (BDB 952, KB 1280, Piel imperfect) is found only here in the OT. It is used in a similar way in Ecclesiasticus 14:22 (“observe stealthily”).

Psalms 68:17 The imagery of this verse alludes to Deuteronomy 33:2-5, where it denoted YHWH coming to Sinai with His holy angelic entourage (cf. Daniel 7:10; Revelation 5:11).

YHWH used Mt. Sinai as the location to meet Israel in a covenant-making revelation, but He chose Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem as the place for His presence (i.e., the ark of the covenant) to dwell permanently (cf. Psalms 68:16).

“thousands upon thousands” This is a Hebrew construct of BDB 48 and 1041. The second word is found only here in the OT. BDB defines it as “repetition” or “redoubled.” The context and parallelism help define the term. See Special Topic: Thousand (eleph).

Psalms 68:18 In context this refers to God

1. going to the top of Mt. Sinai

2. as a military metaphor of tribute paid the victor

Paul quotes this verse in Ephesians 4:8, but from a Targum translation that changes “received” to “give.” This noticeably alters the meaning of the MT. The Peshitta has

“Thou has blessed men with gifts; but rebellious men shall not dwell before the presence of God.”

It is surely possible that the implication of the MT is that God receives the gifts of the nations and redistributes them to His people (see Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of Bibld Difficulties, pp. 404-405).

The rabbis saw Psalms 68:0 as related to YHWH giving the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai. They would have interpreted the “received/given” dynamic as referring to the Mosaic Law, but Paul saw it as the new age in Christ. He empowers His church with new revelation (cf. G. B. Caird, The Language and Imagery of the Bible, p. 170).

In the context of Psalms 68:15-18, verse Psalms 68:18 must refer to YHWH's “holy war,” whereby the enemies of Israel, both in transit (i.e., wilderness wanderings) and the conquest of Canaan, are defeated. This may be an allusion to “the blessings of Moses” in Deuteronomy 33:0 being extended to the later conquest and habitation of Canaan.

Verses 19-23

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 68:19-23 19Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation. Selah. 20God is to us a God of deliverances; And to God the Lord belong escapes from death. 21Surely God will shatter the head of His enemies, The hairy crown of him who goes on in his guilty deeds. 22The Lord said, “I will bring them back from Bashan. I will bring them back from the depths of the sea; 23That your foot may shatter them in blood, The tongue of your dogs may have its portion from your enemies.”

Psalms 68:19-23 Because “Bashan” is mentioned in Psalms 68:15 and 22, there must be a connection between the military-oriented strophes of Psalms 68:11-14 and 19-23. There are several obvious truths.

1. God is with Israel

2. God will deliver them from their enemies.

This strophe uses three names for Deity (see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY).

1. Adonai, Psalms 68:19, Psalms 68:20, Psalms 68:21

2. El, Psalms 68:19b, Psalms 68:20 (twice)

3. YHWH, Psalms 68:20

Psalms 68:19 “who daily bears our burden” This may denote

1. YHWH's constant presence with Israel

2. Israel's constant need of a savior/salvation/deliverance (spiritually and/or physically, cf. Psalms 65:5)

The truth that YHWH carries His own is found in Psalms 55:22; Isaiah 46:4.

Psalms 68:20-23 These verses emphasize YHWH's deliverance of the Israelite army (some died but most were saved). Their enemies may run but they cannot escape (cf. Psalms 68:22; Amos 9:1-4).

Psalms 68:23 contains idioms of defeat and shame.

1. bathe your feet in blood (cf. Psalms 58:10; common idiom in Canaanite literature used of Ba'al and Anath)

2. dogs eat the dead enemy soldiers (cf. 1 Kings 21:19; Jeremiah 15:3)

Psalms 68:21 “the hairy crown” This is imagery for a person's scalp (cf. Deuteronomy 32:42). Long hair was an OT symbol of dedication to God (cf. Numbers 6:0), but here of defeated enemies, possibly referring to their dedication to a pagan god and refusal to acknowledge YHWH.

Psalms 68:22 “from Bashan” It is difficult to know if “Bashan” (BDB 143, בשׁן) should be

1. linked to Psalms 68:15 as a geographical location

2. emended to בתן, a Ugaritic root for “serpent,” which would parallel “the depths of the sea” in the next line (NEB, cf. Amos 9:3, where the same parallelism occurs with the Hebrew word for “serpent”). The “depths” are also linked to the Exodus where YHWH split the sea and Pharaoh's elite bodyguard drowned (cf. Exodus 15:5; Nehemiah 9:11).

Verses 24-27

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 68:24-27 24They have seen Your procession, O God, The procession of my God, my King, into the sanctuary. 25The singers went on, the musicians after them, In the midst of the maidens beating tambourines. 26Bless God in the congregations, Even the Lord, you who are of the fountain of Israel. 27There is Benjamin, the youngest, ruling them, The princes of Judah in their throng, The princes of Zebulun, the princes of Naphtali.

Psalms 68:24-27 This strophe describes a procession to the temple. Possibly the ark, which was taken into battle, is returned.

There are several groups mentioned or implied in the throng.

1. the Israeli king as a representative of YHWH, the true King

2. Levitical singers and musicians

3. maidens with tambourines (cf. Exodus 15:20; Judges 11:34; Jeremiah 31:4)

4. the thirteen tribes represented by

a. Benjamin

b. Judah

c. Zebulun

d. Naphtali

Psalms 68:24

NASB, NKJV“They have seen” NRSV“are seen” TEV“seen by all” NJB“for all to see” JPSOA“Men see”

The question is, who sees? Is it the Israelite worshiper or all the opposing nations? The strophe implies Israel but the Psalm as a whole implies “the nations” (cf. Psalms 68:28-31, Psalms 68:32-35).

“procession” The term (BDB 237) is used only here for

1. people of Israel coming to the temple

2. Deity coming to the temple

“my King” The first specific mention of YHWH as King is 1 Samuel 8:4-9. See Special Topic: The Kingdom of God.

“sanctuary” This term (BDB 871) is used of

1. places set apart as sacred by God's presence

2. the tabernacle and its courts

3. the temple and its surrounding areas

4. Jerusalem and its hills

Psalms 68:26 “Bless God” This is a Piel imperative. Israel must praise YHWH for His character and His actions! See Special Topic: Characteristics of Israel's God.

“the fountain of Israel” This is a unique phrase. It seems to refer to YHWH's calling of the Patriarchs and His involvement in their barren wives having children. The only oblique possible parallel reference is found in Isaiah 48:1.

Psalms 68:27 There has been much speculation about why only some tribes are mentioned. I think there are three possibilities.

1. they represent the entire Promised Land

a. Judah and Benjamin the south (i.e., Judah)

b. Zebulun and Naphtali the north (i.e., Israel)

2. they represent the wives of Jacob (i.e., source of the 13 tribes)

a. Rachel

(1) Judah

(2) Benjamin

b. Leah Zebulun

c. Bilhah Naphtali

d. Zelph no child listed

3. they represent the smallest tribe to the largest

“the youngest” The MT has “the least of them” (BDB 859 I). This could mean

1. Benjamin the youngest son of Rachel

2. a small tribe, but Israel's first king, Saul, came from it

NASB“in their throng” NKJV“and their company” NRSV“in a body” TEV“with their group” NJB“in bright-colored robes” JPSOA“who command them”

The MT has רגמתם (BDB 920), which could refer to

1. רגם to kill by stoning (“sling,” מרגמה, BDB 920)

2. רגמה heap of stones or crowd of people (BDB 920)

3. רגשׁה throng (BDB 921)

The NJB emends the word (1) to ברקמתם, “to embroidery” (BDB 140) or (2) “variegated stuff,” רקמה (cf. Psalms 45:13-14a). The UBS Text Project (p. 293) gives “crowd” a “B” rating (some doubt), but it is not specific about the root (i.e., #2 or #3).

Verses 28-31

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 68:28-31 28Your God has commanded your strength; Show Yourself strong, O God, who have acted on our behalf. 29Because of Your temple at Jerusalem Kings will bring gifts to You. 30Rebuke the beasts in the reeds, The herd of bulls with the calves of the peoples, Trampling under foot the pieces of silver; He has scattered the peoples who delight in war. 31Envoys will come out of Egypt; Ethiopia will quickly stretch out her hands to God.

Psalms 68:28-31 This strophe is somehow related to YHWH's defeat of Egypt. It is uncertain whether it is the Exodus or a later military invasion.

However, with the defeat comes a wonderful offer to come worship YHWH in Jerusalem (cf. Psalms 68:31; Isaiah 19:19-22; Isaiah 45:14). It is this universal emphasis (cf. Psalms 68:32-35) that links Psalm 65-68.

Psalms 68:28 The power/strength (BDB 738) is God's and He has displayed it on behalf of His people to attract the nations to Himself.

Psalms 68:29

NASB, NKJV, NRSV“because” TEV, NJB, JPSOA“from” LXX“resulting” NET Bible“as you come out of”

The MT has a preposition that could be understood in several ways. It seems to allude to Psalms 68:1, where YHWH rises for action on behalf of Israel in battle.

Psalms 68:30 “rebuke” This is a Qal imperative (BDB 172, KB 199). This term is used of God's judgment of the nations in Psalms 9:5; Isaiah 17:13. It seems to be used here of Egypt (cf. Ezekiel 29:3; Ezekiel 32:2; possibly Isaiah 27:1). She and the nations to the south (i.e., Ethiopia/Cush) are both specifically named in Psalms 68:31.

The NET Bible (p. 934) translates it as “war cry.”

NASB, NRSV“trampling under foot” NKJV“Til everyone submits” TEV“until they all bow down” NJB“who bow down” JPSOA“till they come cringing”

The MT has “stamp,” “tread,” “foul by stamping/treading” (BDB 952, KB 1279, cf. Proverbs 25:26). The same root (in an imperative form) means “to humble yourself.” Possibly both meanings allude to Psalms 68:2 or 34:18, where this same verb is used of Egypt being humbled.

“the pieces of silver” Again rare words or textual corruptions have caused the English translations to be uncertain.

The word “pieces,” רץ, which BDB 954 suggests means “piece” or “bar”).

It is possible to emend it to בצר (BDB 131 I), which means “precious ore” (cf. Job 22:24, cf. NIDOTTE, vol. 1, pp. 699-700), possibly “gold.” If so, then a translation of the line of poetry (Psalms 68:30c) would be “bowed down with gold and silver” (i.e., a tribute to YHWH).

Psalms 68:31

NASB, NKJV, REB, LXX“Envoys will come out of Egypt” NRSV“Let bronze be brought from Egypt” TEV“Ambassadors will come from Egypt” NJB“from Egypt nobles will come” JPSOA“tribute bearers shall come from Egypt”

The UBS Text Project (p. 297) gives “things of bronze” (BDB 365) a “B” rating (some doubt). It occurs only here in the OT. The other translations follow ancient versions and rabbinical speculation.

It is possible to see Psalms 68:30c and Psalms 68:31a,b as referring to tribute brought to God by North African nations (JPSOA).

1. gold

2. silver

3. bronze

“will quickly stretch out her hands to God” This fits the understanding of the previous note. There is no need to emend the verb “run” (BDB 930, KB 1207, Hiphil imperfect) to “stretch out” (NEB) when the MT is an idiom of the same reality.

Verses 32-35

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 68:32-35 32Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth, Sing praises to the Lord, Selah. 33To Him who rides upon the highest heavens, which are from ancient times; Behold, He speaks forth with His voice, a mighty voice. 34Ascribe strength to God; His majesty is over Israel And His strength is in the skies. 35O God, You are awesome from Your sanctuary. The God of Israel Himself gives strength and power to the people. Blessed be God!

Psalms 68:32-35 This strophe reinforces the universal worship of YHWH in Jerusalem alluded to in verse Psalms 68:31.

Notice the imperatives.

1. sing to God BDB 1010, KB 1479, Qal imperative

2. sing praises to the Lord BDB 274, KB 273, Piel imperative

3. ascribe strength to God BDB 678, KB 733, Qal imperative, cf. Psalms 29:1-2; 1 Chronicles 16:28-29

YHWH is described as

1. who rides upon the hightest heavens (i.e., on the storm clouds)

2. who speaks forth with a mighty voice (i.e., thunder, cf. Isaiah 30:30; Revelation 11:19; Revelation 14:2; Revelation 16:17-18)

3. majesty is over Israel

4. strength is in the skies

5. awesome from the temple

6. gives strength and power to His people

7. is blessed by them

Psalms 68:33a This imagery goes back to Deuteronomy 33:26 and is alluded to in Psalms 18:10, also note Psalms 68:4b.

The “highest heavens” denotes the clouds of earth (cf. Psalms 68:34c), not the dwelling place of God.

His mighty voice is an allusion to creation by the spoken word in Genesis 1:0.

Psalms 69:35 “awesome” This description goes back to Deuteronomy 7:21; Deuteronomy 10:17, also note Psalms 68:2 and 66:5. It refers to YHWH's holy character and deeds of covenant deliverance.

“gives strength and power to the people” This may be another allusion to

1. the Exodus

2. the Wilderness Wanderings

3. the Conquest of Canaan

4. His ongoing presence with Israel

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 68". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-68.html. 2021.
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