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To the chief Musician, upon Shushan-eduth, Michtam of David, to teach; when he strove with Aram-naharaim and with Aram-zobah, when Joab returned, and smote of Edom in the valley of salt twelve thousand.
Commentators have found some difficulty in harmonizing the title of this psalm with the historic statements of 2 Samuel 8:13 and 1 Chronicles 18:12. Some links in the brief narrative are wanting, but thus much is evident: that during David’s Syrian wars Edom not only attacked Judah on the south, but probably ravaged and committed great barbarities along the border. To repel this invasion it would seem Joab was sent with a detachment of the northern army, (see title of this psalm,) after which another bloody engagement was had under Abishai’s command, (see 1 Chronicles 18:12,) and David, as king and commander in chief of the army, may be said to have done what his generals had done by his order. See 2 Samuel 8:13. Evidently several battles were fought. But the psalm is not a triumphal song, but a complaint; which, however, may be explained by the fact that the first victory was not decisive, and that the great severity of the battles told heavily on David’s army. The psalm was evidently written while the final issue was yet pending, Psalms 60:9-12. See more in the notes, specially the introduction to Psalms 108:0.Verses 1-3 are a bitter complaint at the withdrawal of God, and the terrible shock that had been given to the national cause. Psalms 60:4-7 are a hopeful assurance of God’s favour, grounded on a former oracle respecting the unity of the tribes and the sovereignty of Judah. Psalms 60:8 is a contemptuous figure expressive of the subjugation of Israel’s enemies. Psalms 60:9-12 are an ardent anticipation of a speedy and triumphant completion of the war.
Upon Shushan-eduth Commonly translated, Upon the lily of the testimony. The plural, shoshanim, occurs in the titles of Psalms 45, 69, , 80. But why “shushan” is called lily is not known. Jebb, after Schleusner, translates hexachord, or harp of six strings, and supposes it was called the hexachord of testimony, because its music was first performed before the ark of the testimony at Jerusalem. Others (as Gesenius, De Wette) think the name denotes a lily-shaped instrument, as a trumpet, or perhaps a well known song, after the measure and numbers of which this was to be sung. Furst thinks “Shushan” might be the name of a musical choir whose leader was of that name, and “Eduth” the name of the city where he dwelt, Adithaim, Joshua 15:36. But keeping to the ordinary meaning of the words, the translation first given seems the proper one, and “ shushan-eduth,” or “shushanim-eduth,” most naturally denotes either the instrument or the musical mode of performance.
Michtam of David See on title of Psalms 16:0.
To teach Delitzsch thinks we must take le-lammed, to teach, according to 2 Samuel 1:18, where David “bade them teach the children of Judah the use of the bow,” in honour of Jonathan. That is, in connexion with this mode of music, (the shushanim-eduth,) they were to practise the military use of the bow. It is “a song at the practice of arms:” and certainly Psalm lx is a most martial song.
Aram-naharaira “Aram” is the Hebrew word for Syria, and “na-haraim” means the two rivers. Syria of the two rivers is the same as Mesopotamia, situated between the rivers Euphrates and Tigris.
Aram-zobah That part of Syria lying north and northeast of Damascus between the Euphrates and the Orontes.
Valley of salt A desert valley, the lower section of the Ghor, south of the Dead Sea, about ten miles wide. Joab and Amaziah both fought decisive battles against the Edomites in this valley. 2 Samuel 12:13; 2 Chronicles 25:11.
Joab returned, and smote See introductory note.
1. Thou hast cast us off The first three verses are a complaint but feebly relieved by prayer. Sorrow, disappointment, and astonishment prevail.
Faith seems staggered. Compare Psalms 44:9-26. The resemblance of Psalms 60:1 to Psalms 44:9, shows that the latter is borrowed from the former.
Thou hast scattered us Thou hast broken us down. The word denotes a forcible breaking down, or breaking through; a rending of what was trusted in as safe and firm. Hence they were totally baffled and humbled. The language throughout is highly impassioned.
2. Earth to tremble… broken… breaches… shaketh Fearful words, descriptive of an earthquake, to which the army and nation, tottering, reeling, breaking, under the shock of disastrous war, are now compared.
3. Wine of astonishment Literally, wine of reeling, or drunkenness, called the “cup of trembling, ” Isaiah 51:17; Isaiah 51:22. This unexpected judgment had deprived them of strength, as one who reeled and staggered from intoxication.
4. Banner The Hebrew word נס , ( nes,) which occurs only here in the psalms, denotes the military signal which was attached to a long pole and set upon conspicuous places, as city walls or high hills, as a war-signal to rally the people to arms; see Isaiah 5:26; Isaiah 18:3; Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 4:21; Jeremiah 51:12; Jeremiah 51:27. It differs from דגל , ( degel,) the military standard for each of the four divisions of the twelve tribes, Numbers 2:0; and from אות , ( oth,) the ensign for a single tribe. Numbers 2:2. Isaiah repeatedly uses it as a signal for assembling the exiles for their return to Jerusalem. Isaiah 11:10; Isaiah 11:12; Isaiah 69:22; Isaiah 62:10-11. In the text it may mean a military signal for a war muster, as the root verb dagal is used, Psalms 20:5; or a token of victory and protection, which would be exactly the oriental proverbial sense, as, Song of Solomon 2:4, “his banner, ( degel,) over me was love.”
Displayed It is better to follow our English version, and take התנוסס , ( hithnoses,) as a peculiar conjugation (Hithpoel) of נסס , ( nasas,) to elevate, lift up. It cannot be derived from נוס , ( noos,) to flee, and make sense or agree with the context, for this second strophe, Psalms 60:4-8, opening with the triumphal strain, “Thou hast given a banner,” etc., is one of hope, victory, and exultation, not of retreat and dismay. There is here a total change in the tone and spirit of the psalm from the complaint, Psalms 60:1-3.
Because of the truth The Septuagint (followed by the Vulgate and Syriac, with some modern critics) reads: “Thou hast given a token to them that fear thee, to flee from before the bow.” But this takes קשׁת , ( kohshet,) truth, the same as קשׁת , ( kehsheth,) bow, which requires an exchange of the final radicals, with a new vowel pointing. This, however, is not necessary. The word, as it stands in the text, has its ground form in Proverbs 22:21, where it means truth, as also its corresponding Chaldee, ( קשׁושׂ ,) Daniel 2:47; Daniel 4:27, with the same meaning. This also requires that מפני , ( mipnee,) literally from the face of, before, be understood as indicating the reason or motive in the sense of because of, in consideration of, as in Deuteronomy 28:20; Nehemiah 4:9; Nehemiah 5:15, and in twelve other places. This makes Zechariah 9:16, a parallel passage. It also makes sense, which the other does not; for the idea of giving a banner that they might fly before the archers is absurd. By this interpretation, which is simply that of the English text, the spirit of the context is preserved, as already noticed; by the other, it is completely destroyed. “Truth,” here, must be understood in the sense of fidelity to the purpose and covenant of God to David touching his kingdom, which the allied nations had conspired to overthrow.
5. Thy beloved The same word, radically, as Jedediah, the beloved of Jehovah, a title of endearment given to Benjamin and to Solomon. Deuteronomy 33:12; 2 Samuel 12:25. See Psalms 108:6.
Right hand As the emblem of most excellent strength, fidelity, and honour.
6. God… spoken Hitherto David has spoken, figuratively, of a “ banner displayed on account of the truth;” now, he speaks plainly of the divine oracle as the ground of his faith. “God hath spoken;” an allusion to Jacob’s prophecy, Genesis 49:10; Samuel’s message, 1 Samuel 16:13; and to Nathan’s, 2 Samuel 7:4-17. Delitzsch says, it is possible, also, that at this moment “David received an oracle from the high priest by means of the Urim and Thummim which assured him of the unity of his kingdom and the sovereignty over the bordering nations.”
Shechem… Succoth The former an open plain west of Jordan, and the latter a valley east of Jordan in the tribe of Gad, which has not been well identified by modern discovery, but was probably about the latitude of Shechem. These are alluded to as patriarchal stations when Jacob, on his return from “Padan Aram,” was searching a central location for the settlement of the Hebrew family, and are here used poetically for the total promised territory east and west of Jordan. Compare Genesis 33:17-18; Joshua 13:27; Judges 8:4-5. The dividing and meting out simply indicate absolute title and sovereignty. Numbers 26:55-56; 2 Samuel 8:2
7. Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine As Shechem and Succoth, Psalms 60:6, geographically represented the total territory of Israel, so Gilead and Manasseh (east) are only a more literal and minute repetition of the same idea, politically considered, of the territory east of Jordan, while Ephraim and Judah represented the west.
Ephraim… is the strength of mine head My helmet, the defensive armour for the head, denoting how vital a part of the nation’s defence Ephraim was. Moses compared Ephraim and Manasseh to the strength of the neck and horns of the buffalo. Deuteronomy 33:17.
Judah is my lawgiver A direct allusion to the blessing of Jacob, Genesis 49:10. Thus far David describes the continued unity and integrity of his kingdom, which his recent disasters had threatened, but which faith in the oracle of God had now reassured Ephraim and Manasseh were the jealous and disappointed tribes. See note on Psalms 78:0. Saul’s son had already sought to dismember the kingdom by their means. 2 Samuel 2:8-11; 2 Samuel 3:2. The moment David’s career of victory was checked he feared the loss of his foreign conquests, followed by the revival of the old internal feuds. Faith has already triumphed over the latter, and he now proceeds to express his exultation over the bordering nations.
8. Washpot A vessel for common washing, as distinct from a seething pot, or a sacred vessel. Some suppose it the same as Herodotus mentions as (book ii, c. 172) used for “spitting and washing feet.” The term is expressive of great contempt and degradation.
Cast out my shoe Rather, cast upon, or cast at, my shoe. The throwing the shoe at one, or striking him with it, was a sign of servile submission and contempt. The language is highly oriental, and must be explained in conformity with the usages and proverbialisms of the country. Wetzstein, however, thinks the most natural interpretation to be, “Moab is the vessel in which I wash my face and hands clean; that is, the country and people in which I acquire to myself (by its conquest) splendour and renown, and Edom I degrade to the place whither I throw my cast-off shoes; that is, I cause Edom to endure the most humiliating treatment, that of a helot” or slave. But the history of 2 Samuel 8:2, suggests a degradation of Moab not less than that of Edom. The figure is not to be compared with Ruth 4:7, which was a civil transaction denoting legal transfer.
Philistia, triumph… because of me Not an irony. The word for “triumph” means simply to cry aloud, but whether for victory or from alarm and distress the connexion must determine. In Hiphil it is used in both senses. For distress, the wail of the captive, see Judges 7:21; Isaiah 15:4; Micah 4:9. “The Hithpael may also be used of a loud outcry of violence.” Delitzsch. Translate: Philistia, wail [as a captive] because of me. The preposition admits this sense, and the connexion and history require it. See note on Psalms 108:9
9. Strong city That is, Selah, the rock, afterwards called Petra, the capital of Edom. It was situated in the eastern mountains of the Arabah, about fifty miles south, bearing east, from the Dead Sea, and about seventy miles from the head of the Gulf of Akaba. It was captured by David and by Amaziah. In 2 Kings 14:7, and Isaiah 16:1, it is translated “Selah” in our English Bible, and in 2 Chronicles 25:12, “the Rock.” Three hundred years before Christ it became the great transit point of commerce between the East and the West across the Arabian Desert, and was renowned for its wealth and strength.
Who will bring me into the strong city Selah was situated in a hollow of the mountains, two thousand feet above the Arabah valley, surrounded east and west by high cliffs, with no military roads on the west, and approached on the east by caravans only through a narrow, though famous, ravine, the Sik. It was deemed impregnable.
Who will lead me Who has led me unto Edom? The change of tense, in the Hebrew, would more naturally explain itself by remembering God had directed the army of Israel to the border of Edom by an oracle from the priest; and the interrogatory form, on which the prayer and faith of David are founded, is suitable to an unfinished act. They now stood in the border of Edom, checked and baffled, but hopeful. The strong city, the key to the whole kingdom, lies beyond them, and the argument of the prayer is, that as God had already led them into Edom, so he would bring them into the capital or strong city. See more in introductory note to Psalms 108:0.
10. Hadst cast us off See Psalms 60:1
12. Do valiantly Be victorious. Notwithstanding the severe rebuff through the divine displeasure, their trust and help are alone in God, and this is the moral lesson of the psalm.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 60". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26