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Friday, June 14th, 2024
the Week of Proper 5 / Ordinary 10
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 116

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


The Chaldaisms of Psalms 116:7; Psalms 116:12; Psalms 116:19, (De Wette,) with other strong Aramaic colouring of language, (Delitzsch,) determine the postexilic date of this psalm. In this critics generally agree. It is written as an individual experience, but the individual represented the nation. From great peril and suffering the author, in answer to prayer, is restored. For this his love is excited and his lips pour forth praise. His acknowledgments are before all the people, on a day of sacrifice, at Jerusalem. The rearing of the great altar was the first notable occasion of national thanksgiving after the return of the exiles, (Ezra 3:1-7,) which, as a date of the psalm, well suits the freshness of the joy of deliverance and of the remembered sufferings of the captivity. As the deliverance was great, so the joy and love and vows of fidelity are unbounded. “The psalm is an evidence of the truth and depth of the religious life in individuals after the return from the exile.” Perowne. The Septuagint and Vulgate, without authority, divide this psalm into two, ending the first at Psalms 116:9, and inserting “hallelujah” in the title of each. In like manner, as we have seen, they join into one Psalms 114, 115. The Davidic style, which discovers itself throughout, only shows how strongly the author was impressed with the spirit and writings of David. The strophic divisions are not clearly marked, but may be resolved into two. After the introduction, (Psalms 116:1-2,) the first, (Psalms 116:3-11,) describes chiefly the psalmist’s deliverance; the second, (Psalms 116:12, to the end,) his vows and his gratitude.

Verse 1

1. I love the Lord Hebrew, I love, because Jehovah will hear, etc. The object of “love” is not expressed, but logically determined to be He who answers prayer, as if the author’s eye was on Deuteronomy 6:5. The future form of the verb will hear, is more comprehensive than the preterit, because it expresses now a settled confidence in God for all coming time, while the recent answer takes the past tense.

Verse 2

2. Will I call upon him Literally, I will call; the verb, here, as in “I love,” (Psalms 116:1,) bring without its object expressed. The language is impassioned, and supposes the connexion or occasion to sufficiently explain it.

As long as I live Hebrew, In my days. Not only his life long, but as his daily habit.

Verse 3

3. Sorrows of death Hebrew, Cords of death, in allusion to the use of “cords,” or ropes, for leading animals, binding prisoners, punishment by strangulation, etc., in all which the idea of abject and helpless submission is conveyed. See 1 Kings 20:31-32. Cords of death denote that the subject is condemned to die. See on Psalms 118:5. The verse is a quotation from Psalms 18:4-5.

Pains of hell Hebrew, straits of sheol, מצר , ( metzar,) radically means a compressed, narrow place, a strait, where a fugitive is easily captured, and figuratively, distress. The straits of sheol had shut him in; a proverbial phrase for the environments of death. The word occurs literally Lamentations 1:3, and figuratively Psalms 118:5. In the text it is parallel to “cords of death,” in previous member.

Verse 4

4. Then called I At a moment when my case was beyond all human help.

Upon the name “A stronger expression than merely to call upon the Lord,” (Hengstenberg,) for it supposes the supplicant’s faith to rest assuredly on the historically manifested character of God.

Verse 5

5. Righteous… merciful Righteous in keeping his covenant, merciful in making and adapting it to man.

Verse 6

6. Simple Not here such as want understanding. (as Proverbs 1:4; Proverbs 1:22,) but such as are of pure, unmixed, guileless hearts, to whom the promise is always due, (Psalms 19:7; Psalms 119:130;) the childlike spirit. Psalms 8:2; Matthew 11:25.

Brought low Reduced to wretchedness, as in Psalms 116:3; Judges 6:6; Psalms 79:8

Verse 7

7. Thy rest A soliloquy not unfrequent. Psalms 43:5; Psalms 103:1-5. “The rest for the soul is the land of the Lord, the temple, the building of which was just begun, the delightful home, with everything it affords for refreshment for the weary wanderer.” Hengstenberg. This is in accordance with the use of the word, Deuteronomy 12:9; that is, a resting place, but the spiritual idea is always included. The “rest” stands opposed to Massah and Meribah Temptation and Strife, (Psalms 95:8; Psalms 95:11,) but here, it is in contrast with “trouble and sorrow.” Psalms 116:3.

Hath dealt bountifully If the verb be taken in the retributive sense, it should be rendered the Lord hath rewarded thee, or requited upon thee; namely, with good, and so it is rendered 1 Samuel 24:17; Psalms 18:20. But the radical sense should rather come out here, namely, to finish. perfect; and render, The Lord hath perfected toward me, that is, all his good pleasure. Comp. Psalms 138:8. God’s work in his salvation was complete.

Verses 8-9

8, 9. Quoted from David, Psalms 56:13

Verse 10

10. I believed, etc. Literally, I believed, for I spoke. Quoted from the Septuagint, 2 Corinthians 4:13. The psalmist here casts his eye backward to the struggles of his soul described Psalms 116:3; Psalms 116:8. There, contending against the powers of this world, he believed in God against all conflicting opinions and events, and spoke as the fruit and expression of that faith.

I was greatly afflicted Greatly prostrated, humbled. This was his condition when he spoke. What he said is contained in the subsequent verses of the psalm.

Verse 11

11. I said in my haste The word “haste,” here, must take the sense of agitation, alarm; or of flight, hasty retreat. The last does not suit the historic relations of the psalm, though it does Psalms 31:22, which see. Agitation from fear and doubt is the idea, as Deuteronomy 20:3, where it is rendered tremble.

All men are liars Every man is false, deceitful. Thus it appeared from the standpoint of his distress. But “it is obvious that behind the negative there is concealed the positive I place my confidence, not in deceitful men, but on my true and faithful God.” Hengstenberg. In this sense it is parallel to Psalms 108:8. See Psalms 62:9; Romans 3:4

Verse 12

12. What shall I render From the memories of human faithlessness, which, if dwelt upon, would have awakened only censoriousness and bitterness, the psalmist turns to the deliverance wrought by his faithful God, and to his duty of love and praise.

Verse 13

13. Cup of salvation The special dispensations, or allotments, of God to men, whether of joy or sorrow, mercy or judgment, are represented often under the figure of a cup, the contents of which they are to drink. Thus, of good, Psalms 16:5; Psalms 23:5; Jeremiah 16:7: of wrath, Psalms 11:6; Psalms 75:8; Jeremiah 25:15; Jeremiah 25:17; Jeremiah 25:28; Ezekiel 23:31-33. But the allusion here would seem to be to the cup of libation, or drink-offering, which was ordinarily wine, and used in the daily sacrifice and in burnt offerings to indicate devotion to God in form of a covenant. Thus blood, the emblem of life, and wine, representing richness and acceptableness the former for expiation and the latter for thanksgiving made the offering complete.

Verse 14

14. In the presence of all his people The occasion was one of public sacrifice: see Psalms 116:13, and introductory note.

Verse 15

15. Precious… the death of his saints The word yahkar, applied to things, denotes that which is of rare value, costly, “precious;” applied to persons, it means special honour, excellence, reputation. The “death of” God’s “saints” is distinguished from death as the common lot of man, in the eyes of God, by rare excellence and honour, not physically, but morally, considered. If there is any meaning in language, here is proof of a future life, and of future rewards and punishments.

Verse 16

16. The son of thine handmaid A form of speech describing a servant “born in the house,” and, therefore, perpetual, as distinguished from a hireling, or a servant bought with money. It is the language of endearment and of humility. See Genesis 14:14; Genesis 17:23; Psalms 86:16.

Thou hast loosed my bonds Emancipated me; set me free. The figure perfectly suits the condition of the newly-returned exiles. God had claimed them as servants born in his own house, and had now redeemed them from their bondage to the heathen. Compare Psalms 107:14. But the spiritual sense also belongs here. The psalm is highly spiritual. In this application, compare Romans 6:16-22; John 8:34-35

Verses 17-18

17, 18. These verses clearly show that the occasion of the psalm was one of public thanksgiving and sacrifice after a great deliverance. Psalms 116:14; Psalms 116:18, seem like a refrain, and their repetition indicates how sacredly the people hold their vows after so great a mercy.

Verse 19

19. Courts of the Lord’s house This does not necessarily prove the temple to be now standing, but the place of worship. In Ezra 2:68; Ezra 3:8, the place where the temple formerly stood, though now covered with ruins, is called the “house of God.” So Bethel, ( house of God,) when thus named, was only a “place” in the open field. Genesis 28:11; Genesis 28:19.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 116". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/psalms-116.html. 1874-1909.
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