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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 96

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary


Psalms 96:0


A Call to Worship the Lord the Righteous JudgeNo MT IntroA Song of Praise To God Coming in JudgmentA Hymn Celebrating God's KingshipGod the Supreme KingYahweh, King and Judge
Psalms 96:1-6Psalms 96:1-3Psalms 96:1-6Psalms 96:1-3Psalms 96:1-2a
Psalms 96:2-3
Psalms 96:4-6 Psalms 96:4-6Psalms 96:4-5a
Psalms 96:5-6
Psalms 96:7-10Psalms 96:7-9Psalms 96:7-9Psalms 96:7-9Psalms 96:7-8a
Psalms 96:8-9
Psalms 96:10Psalms 96:10-13Psalms 96:10-13Psalms 96:10
Psalms 96:11-13Psalms 96:11-13 Psalms 96:11-12
Psalms 96:13

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. Etc.


A. This is an extremely exciting and important Psalm. It develops the universal implication of monotheism (see Special Topic: Monotheism). It also develops the implication of the ethical aspect of monotheism (i.e., a world of justice and righteousness). This may reflect an eschatological court scene, like Matthew 25:31-46 and Revelation 20:11-15.

B. This Psalm has an eschatological reference. The whole earth (cf. Psalms 96:1, Psalms 96:3, Psalms 96:7, Psalms 96:9, Psalms 96:10, Psalms 96:13) will one day acknowledge YHWH's supremacy; “YHWH reigns” (cf. Isaiah 52:7)!

C. This Psalm is quoted in 1 Chronicles 16:23-33 as part of a larger Psalm(s) [i.e., Ps. 96:1-36] in connection with David's bringing the ark into Jerusalem. In context David (LXX), Asaph, or his family could be the human author. The MT has no introductory phrase.

D. This Psalm reflects a universal worship setting of all peoples where the attributes and actions of the one God (i.e., King and Judge) are praised! This was the purpose of the outer court of the Temple (cf. 1 Kings 8:43, 1 Kings 8:60; Isaiah 56:7; Matthew 21:13; Mark 11:17).

E. This Psalm is general enough to fit several visitations of YHWH. The “new song” speaks of God's ongoing activity of redemption, not just to Israel, but to all flesh. His salvation is universal (cf. Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan).

F. Although there is no specific messianic reference it is obvious from further revelation that the mechanism for accomplishing this universal redemption and reign is the Messiah (see Special Topic: Messiah, i.e., Isaiah 6:0; Isaiah 9:0; Daniel 7:0; Micah 5:0).

Verses 1-6

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 96:1-6 1Sing to the Lord a new song; Sing to the Lord , all the earth. 2Sing to the Lord , bless His name; Proclaim good tidings of His salvation from day to day. 3Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples. 4For great is the Lord and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. 5For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the Lord made the heavens. 6Splendor and majesty are before Him, Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.

Psalms 96:1 “Sing to the Lord” This is an imperative repeated three times for emphasis (also in Psalms 96:7-8; this was a literary way to form a Hebrew superlative, cf. Isaiah 6:3, or a poetic way of denoting emphasis, cf. Psalms 103:10, Psalms 103:21, Psalms 103:22; Psalms 118:2, Psalms 118:3, Psalms 118:4; Psalms 135:1; Psalms 136:1, Psalms 136:2, Psalms 136:3; Jeremiah 7:4; Jeremiah 22:29). It is YHWH's will that “all the earth” sing and bless Him. It is Israel's job to make YHWH's character and acts known to the world. All creation will praise Him (cf. Psalms 96:11-12; Psalms 103:19-22; Psalms 145:10).

“a new song” This phrase is used often in the Bible (cf. Psalms 33:3; Psalms 40:3; Psalms 98:1; Psalms 144:9; Isaiah 42:10; Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3). God is always doing a new redemptive thing for His human creation. This seems to refer to His coming in salvation for all nations (cf. Psalms 96:13).

The word “new” (BDB 294 I, cf. Psalms 33:3; Psalms 40:3; Psalms 90:1; Psalms 98:1; Psalms 144:9; Psalms 149:1) is used often in Isaiah denoting YHWH's new creative activity. The “new” is really what YHWH wanted original creation to be. The results and influence of the Fall are reversed and eliminated! The Bible starts in Eden (Genesis 1-4) and ends in a new Eden (Revelation 21-22).

Isaiah uses this term to describe several things.

1. new things - Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 48:6

2. new song - Isaiah 42:10 (Revelation 5:9; Revelation 14:3)

3. something new - Isaiah 43:19 (Revelation 3:12)

4. new names - Isaiah 62:2 (Revelation 2:17; Revelation 3:12)

5. new heaven and new earth - Isaiah 65:17; Isaiah 66:22 (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:5)

“all the earth” This universal theme is repeated over and over again in this Psalm (cf. Psalms 96:3, Psalms 96:7, Psalms 96:9, Psalms 96:10, Psalms 96:13). See Special Topic: Land, Country, Earth. Please, please take the time to look at the Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan. It is the integrating center of my theology.

Psalms 96:2 “bless His name” This also is an imperative (BDB 138, KB 159, Piel). The word's root meaning is “to kneel down” in worship. Therefore, this would denote a temple liturgy or confession (cf. Psalms 26:12; Psalms 100:4; Psalms 134:1-2; Psalms 135:19-20; Nehemiah 9:5).

“Proclaim good tidings” This is another Piel imperative (BDB 142, KB 163). The good news could refer to the character of YHWH or His acts of deliverance/redemption (cf. Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 41:27; Isaiah 52:7; Isaiah 60:6; Nahum 1:15). In this context it refers to YHWH's redemption of all the earth (the “tell” of Psalms 96:3a is parallel, it is also a Piel imperative, BDB 707, KB 765).

“from day to day” AB makes an interesting point about

1. possibly, ים - sea and ים - day are spelled alike in Phoenician (p. 357)

2. from sea to sea (cf. Psalms 72:8; Zechariah 9:10) fits the universal nature of the Psalm better (p. 357)

It should also be noted that the “seas” are referred to in Psalms 96:11.

“salvation” In the OT this (BDB 447) referred to physical deliverance (see SPECIAL TOPIC: SALVATION (OLD TESTAMENT TERM) [OT]), but in the NT the connotation changes to spiritual deliverance (see Special Topic: Greek Verb Tenses Used for Salvation). This eschatological Psalm spans both covenants and links both aspects.

Psalms 96:3 “glory” This term is used in Psalms 96:3, Psalms 96:7, Psalms 96:8. It has a wide usage in the OT. It comes from the commercial usage, “to be heavy,” as in a valuable metal. It is used of

1. YHWH's name - Psalms 29:2; Psalms 66:2; Psalms 96:8

2. YHWH's person - Exodus 24:16-17; Exodus 33:18, Exodus 33:22; Exodus 40:34-35; Numbers 14:22

3. YHWH's actions - Exodus 16:7, Exodus 16:12


“His wonderful deeds” See Special Topic: Wonderful Things.

Psalms 96:4 “greatly to be praised. . .to be feared” This is the same as Psalms 48:1. These two do not seem to fit together, yet they both reflect an appropriate attitude toward God. “Fear” (BDB 431, KB 432, Niphal participle) means awe or respect (see Special Topic: Fear [OT]).

“above all gods” Psalms 96:4 and 5 speak of the “elohim of the peoples.” There is a Hebrew word play between “god” - elohim (BDB 43, 96:4) and “idols” - elilim (lit. “weak,” “nothing,” BDB 47, cf. Psalms 96:5; NIDOTTE, vol. 1, p. 411).

The gods (elohim) of the nations were thought to be fallen angels by the early church fathers, but surely, in this context it refers to pagan idols, while in Psalms 89:5, Psalms 89:7 it refers to the angelic council. The term elohim can refer to (1) YHWH; (2) human judges or leaders; or (3) angels (see SPECIAL TOPIC: NAMES FOR DEITY).

Psalms 96:5 “the Lord made the heavens” The supremacy of YHWH is evidenced by His creation of the world (cf. Psalms 96:10, Psalms 96:11-12). He, and He alone, is the creator!

Psalms 96:6 Notice the personified (cf. Psalms 23:6) nouns used to denote YHWH's personal presence.

1. splendor - BDB 217 I, cf. 1 Chronicles 16:27; 1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalms 104:1; Psalms 111:3; Psalms 145:5; Psalms 148:13; Job 37:22; Job 40:10; Habakkuk 3:3

2. majesty - BDB 214, cf. 1 Chronicles 16:27; Psalms 90:16; Psalms 104:1; Psalms 111:3; Psalms 145:5; Job 40:11; Isaiah 2:10, Isaiah 2:19, Isaiah 2:21

3. strength - BDB 738, cf. 1 Chronicles 16:27; Job 12:16; Psalms 62:11; Psalms 63:2; Psalms 68:34; Psalms 93:1

4. beauty - BDB 802, cf. 1 Chronicles 29:11; Psalms 71:8; Psalms 89:13; Isaiah 63:12, Isaiah 63:14, Isaiah 63:15

I like the UBS Handbook's suggestion that #1 and #2 are royal terms (cf. Psalms 21:5; Psalms 45:3), while #3 and #4 relate to the ark of the covenant in Psalms 78:61 (p. 834). Notice that line 1 ends in “before Him” (YHWH as King) and line 2 ends with “in His sanctuary,” which contains the ark!

For a good discussion on

1. personification or anthropomorphism used in the Bible see G. B. Carid, The Language and Imagery of the Bible, pp. 172-182

2. mythology used in the Bible, pp. 219-242

3. eschatology in the Bible, pp. 243-271

This book has been very helpful to me on the literary imagery of the Bible!

“in His sanctuary” This could refer to the heavenly temple (cf. Exodus 25:8-9) or the earthly temple. The earthly was a mere copy of the heavenly (cf. Hebrews 8:5; Hebrews 9:23). The Psalm of Thanksgiving of 1 Chronicles 16:0 obviously is the earthly (cf. Hebrews 9-10).

Verses 7-10

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 96:7-10 7Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, Ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. 8Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name; Bring an offering and come into His courts. 9Worship the Lord in holy attire; Tremble before Him, all the earth. 10Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns; Indeed, the world is firmly established, it will not be moved; He will judge the peoples with equity.”

Psalms 96:7 “Ascribe” This threefold repetition (three Qal imperatives, BDB 396, KB 393) reflects Psalms 29:1-2, where angels praise YHWH. Here it is all the people of the earth. The implications of monotheism (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM) are universal, not national. See Special Topic: YHWH's Eternal Redemptive Plan.

Psalms 96:8 “the glory of His name” The name represents the person (cf. Isaiah 42:8, see Special Topic: Shadow as a Metaphor for Protection and Care). He is worthy of glory and honor (for the connotation of “glory” in this text cf. Malachi 1:6). This concept is a recurrent theme (cf. 1 Chronicles 16:29; Psalms 29:2; Psalms 66:2; Psalms 79:9).

The second line of this verse has two more Qal imperatives.

1. bring an offering - BDB 669, KB 724

2. come into His courts - BDB 97, KB 112

Like the first strophe (Psalms 96:1-6), this refers to temple worship.

Psalms 96:9 “Worship. . .Tremble” These are two imperatives related to temple activities.

1. worship (lit. “bow down”) - BDB 1005, KB 295, Hithpael or Hishtaphel), cf. Psalms 29:2

2. tremble - BDB 296, KB 297, Qal, the term can denote

a. writhing in pain

b. dancing in worship (cf. Psalms 96:8, cf. NEB and Judges 21:21)

c. whirling, as in combat, with a sword

d. tremble of

(1) the earth, Psalms 97:4; Psalms 104:32; Psalms 114:7

(2) human worshipers, Psalms 96:9; Psalms 96:9 (i.e., awe and respect)

“in holy attire” This phrase (BDB 214 construct BDB 871) is uncertain in Hebrew. It can mean (1) clothing appropriate for worship (cf. 1 Chronicles 16:29; 2 Chronicles 20:21; Psalms 29:2; Psalms 110:3) or (2) a reference to the Lord's coming (cf. Psalms 96:13, TEV).

Just a possible clarification to the first option (i.e., appropriate clothing for worship). The term elilm (BDB 43) is a rare Hebrew word. AB thinks it may be related to the Ugaritic term for “rage” (pp. 356, 358). If so, then there is a contrast set up between how YHWH's worshipers are dressed (Psalms 96:9) and the dreadful way the pagan idols are dressed (Psalms 96:5) and worshiped.

Psalms 96:10 “The Lord reigns” This is a common affirmation in the Psalms (cf. Psalms 93:1; Psalms 97:1; Psalms 99:1). It refers to YHWH as king over all creation (cf. Psalms 95:3-5). He reigns now (cf. Isaiah 52:7) but the reign is contested. One day His kingship will be clearly manifested (cf. Psalms 96:13; Zechariah 14:9; Matthew 6:10; 1 Corinthians 15:25-28).

Psalms 96:10 “the world is firmly established, it will not be moved” In this strophe this phrase does not refer to initial creation (Genesis 1-2) but the new creation (Revelation 21-22; 2 Peter 3:4-7, 2 Peter 3:10-13). This world has been damaged by sin and rebellion. It will last a long time but not permanently. This is a violent universe. Unless God acts, this planet cannot survive.

“He will judge the peoples” There is but one God. He is a righteous, ethical, covenant-making God! All flesh will give an account to Him (cf. Genesis 18:25; Psalms 9:8; Psalms 58:11; Psalms 67:4; Psalms 94:2; Psalms 98:9; Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-15)!

Verses 11-13

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Psalms 96:11-13 11Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice; Let the sea roar, and all it contains; 12Let the field exult, and all that is in it. Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy 13Before the Lord, for He is coming, For He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness And the peoples in His faithfulness.

Psalms 96:11-12 All creation rejoices (personification) at the coming of the creator (i.e., Psalms 103:19-22; Psalms 145:10; Isaiah 49:13; Romans 8:19-22).

Notice all the jussives.

1. let the heavens be glad - BDB 970, KB 1333, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense; for “heavens” see SPECIAL TOPIC: HEAVEN

2. let the earth rejoice - BDB 162, KB 189, Qal jussive; the use of “heaven” and “earth” was an idiomatic way of calling on all creation to praise God (cf. Genesis 1:1)

3. let the sea roar - BDB 947, KB 1266, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense; remember the sea could represent (1) initial chaotic ANE gods (cf. Psalms 89:9-10; Psalms 93:3-4) or (2) a tripartite creation (i.e., “heavens,” “earth,” “sea,” cf. Amos 9:6; Haggai 2:6, see NIDOTTE, vol. 2, pp. 463-465)

4. let the field exult - BDB 759, KB 831, Qal imperfect used in a jussive sense

5. let the trees. . .sing for joy - BDB 943, KB 1247, Piel imperfect used in a jussive sense

Psalms 96:13 “He is coming” In one sense YHWH is always with His creation. He is going to clearly manifest His presence to His creation. Creation convulses and exults at His presence. He comes for

1. blessing

2. judgment

This phrase (BDB 97, KB 112, Qal participle) is repeated for emphasis, as a prayer, and as an affirmation.


“in righteousness. . .in faithfulness” These are in a parallel relationship. God is true and faithful. He will set all things right! See SPECIAL TOPIC: RIGHTEOUSNESS and Special Topic: Believe, Trust, Faith and Faithfulness in the OT. This concept is also mentioned in Psalms 96:10c (i.e., uprightness, cf. Psalms 75:2; Psalms 98:9).


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.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. How is this Psalm so relevant to the new covenant as well as the old?

2. List the universal elements of the Psalm. What is their implication?

3. Why does nature rejoice at YHWH's coming?

4. How is judgment a day of joy?

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Psalms 96". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/psalms-96.html. 2021.
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