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This psalm, though anonymous, undoubtedly belongs to David, and is the fresh effusion of joy and praise for some recent display of divine power and mercy in saving Israel. Evidently the nation had been imperilled by the heathen nations, (Psalms 33:10,) who had been overthrown by superhuman power, (Psalms 33:16-17,) as a token of distinguishing grace to God’s peculiar people, (Psalms 33:18.) It suits well the condition of things at the close of the Syrian and Ammonitish wars, (2 Samuel 12:26-31,) and is considered by some (and in ten manuscripts) as part of Psalms 32:0. The divisions of the psalm may be given as follows: Psalms 33:1-3, a call upon the covenant people to praise God with song and instruments. The reasons for this loud praise are, for his universal righteousness and mercy, (Psalms 33:4-5;) as creator of heaven and earth, (Psalms 33:6-9;) for his government over the nations, frustrating the counsels of the heathen, and establishing his own covenant people, (Psalms 33:10-12;) for his infinite knowledge and cognizance of all human affairs, (Psalms 33:13-15.) A corollary of these reflections is the vanity of all trust in human strength or device, God only being the true deliverer. (Psalms 33:16-19.) The psalmist closes with a profession of Israel’s hope in God, (Psalms 33:20-21,) and a prayer for his continued mercy. Psalms 33:22
1. Praise is comely It is suitable, fit, pleasant. A call upon the righteous for loud rejoicing.
2. Harp The kinnor was an instrument ordinarily of ten strings, sometimes more, (see note on Psalms 81:2,) shaped, probably, like a modern harp, or, as some suppose, like the letter delta ( Δ ) of the Greek alphabet. It was an Asiatic instrument of the earliest invention, (Genesis 4:21,) used by the Hebrews on all occasions, either of joy or sorrow. See on Psalms 92:3. But, though once so universally popular, it has now “disappeared from the entire East.” Van Lennep.
Psaltery Hebrew, nebel, another stringed instrument resembling the harp, probably a kind of guitar having six strings; Josephus says twelve, but Chappell says some were doubled, making virtually but six. In what respects it differed from the harp is not known. It was of Phoenician origin, much used by the Hebrews in worship. It is translated “viol,” Isaiah 5:12; Isaiah 44:11; Amos 5:23; Amos 6:5; and “lute” in the Prayer Book.
Instrument of ten strings Hebrew, ‘asor. Whether this is a different instrument from the “ psaltery” is doubtful. The full designation of “psaltery” is nebel ‘asor, the psaltery of ten strings, and here, and in Psalms 92:4, it might be translated, “upon the psaltery of ten strings,” and, in Psalms 92:3, “upon the ten stringed instrument, even the psaltery.” The word always occurs in connexion with psaltery.
New song New displays of divine faithfulness call for a new song of praise.
4. Right The principle of eternal moral fitness, of which there is no measurement but by the attributes of God, and the relations of things which he has established. God’s word is the exponent and outbeaming of his own nature, and supplies the only perfect rule of moral order and harmony in all his works.
Truth The word should here be taken in the sense of faithfulness, as in Psalms 98:3; Psalms 100:5
5. Righteousness and judgment The principle and the administration of justice. The Septuagint, followed by the Vulgate, renders tsedakkah ( righteousness,) by ελεημοσυνη , ( mercy,) whence comes our word eleemosynory: “He loves mercy and judgment.” So, also, in Psalms 24:5; Deuteronomy 6:25; Deuteronomy 24:13; which shows that the Hebrew word allowed this meaning, and that “judgment,” which is the execution of justice, and mercy, which remits the penalty, are alike dear to God. To the wicked his righteousness is manifested in judgment; to the righteous it presents the aspect of mercy like the cloud of Jehovah at the Red Sea.
The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord Full of the tokens of his good will, especially to man. This doctrine is one of pure revelation. Science, in its broadest views, corroborates it, but no human philosophy ever reached it, as is shown in the polytheistic and dualistic theories of the origin of evil.
6. Word of the Lord “Word” is often a generic term for the total revelation of God, but here for the creative fiat. Genesis 1:0. God’s word is the representative of himself, the expression of his will. “The Scriptures distinguish between the will and the word of God. He was not content with willing, but he said, ‘Let there be light.’ Thus without the Word was not any thing made that was made,” (John 1:3.) Girdlestone.
Host The word signifies, multitude, army, the stars, (Isaiah 34:4,) angels, (Psalms 103:21,) but here it means celestial bodies.
Breath of his mouth Same as energy of his word. “Breath,” here, is the same word as spirit, “the spirit of God,” (Genesis 1:2,) where it means, probably, some symbol of God, as the shekinah, the sign of his immediate presence.
7. Gathereth the waters This verse is a rehearsal of Genesis 1:9.
Heap The allusion is to Exodus 15:8. It is still a wonder that the ocean is confined to its bed.
9. Nothing can exceed the sublimity of this description, which literally reads, “He spoke and it existed, he commanded and it stood.” See Psalms 33:6. Compare the history in Genesis 1:0
10. Counsel of the heathen From God’s dominion over all worlds, the author descends to his government of nations. His power in nature is pledged to the defence of his people and the punishment of wicked nations. Here is the ground of true faith. The counsel and devices of the heathen are antecedent to all active hostility, and hence primarily dreaded.
To naught Maketh void, defeateth.
11. Counsel of the Lord This stands opposed to the “counsel of the heathen,” and his thoughts to their “devices.” Psalms 33:10.
For ever Hebrew, to eternity. The word here applies to God’s “thoughts,” that is, his plans, purposes; in Psalms 40:11, to his mercy and truth; in Psalms 85:5, to his wrath; in Psalms 102:24, to his existence; in Psalms 145:13, to his dominion. In all such cases the subject determines the sense of unlimited duration. In the Hebrew it reads “to generation and generation,” a periphrasis for unlimited time.
12. Blessed is the nation It is happy and safe surrounded by such power for defence, and wisdom to defeat the cunning of crafty men.
13-15. The psalmist reiterates the personal and minute inspection of the hearts of all men, to show that this knowledge will make a sure pathway for infinite power to execute eternal justice.
He fashioneth their hearts alike The Hebrew yahhad, translated “alike,” and usually translated together, here means, wholly, altogether. The idea is, that the creation and endowment of man’s heart his intellective, moral, and psychical being is wholly, or altogether, God’s work. The Septuagint renders it μονας , alone, and the Vulgate, sigillatim, individually, every one of them. The argument requires this sense. God alone made the heart, and he alone perfectly understands all its workings. The passage is parallel to Psalms 94:9-10
16, 17. Are a corollary of the foregoing. The allusion to kings, great armies, mighty men, and the horse, which in those times was not used by the Hebrews, and generally not by the other nations except for war purposes. indicate that the occasion of the psalm was one of great deliverance from foreign war. See introduction.
Multitude of a host Greatness of an army. The ancients relied much on numbers in an army, modern nations rely on tact and discipline.
Mighty man A hero; the word, as applied to a warrior, implies great strength and valour.
17. A horse The most formidable and fleet of all war animals west of the Indus.
18, 19. If no enlargement or concentration of human forces can be trusted for victory and safety, yet there is one resource unfailing the God of hosts, the God of battles, Jehovah, the covenant God.
The eye of the Lord Denoting his perfect knowledge and personal care of those who trust him.
Death… famine The connexion would suggest “death,” here, as the effect of war, and this, with “famine,” have been the dreaded scourges of the nations in all ages.
20-22. From the retrospections already given the psalmist renews the national profession of trust in Jehovah as their only protector, and of joyful fealty to his holy name. The last verse may be taken either as a petition, or a declaration that mercy shall abide upon Israel because of their trust in God.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 33". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent