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To the chief Musician upon Neginah, A Psalm of David.
Following the intimation of the selah, Psalms 61:4, we may divide this psalm into two parts of eight lines each. Psalms 61:1-4 are an earnest prayer, with grateful expressions of trust; Psalms 61:5-8 are a joyful acknowledgment of the answer of prayer, with praise and vows of fidelity. The condition of the psalmist is one of great and overwhelming sorrow: he is far from his throne and capital, his prayer is for protection and the preservation of life, for which the memory of past experience leads him to trust. No enemy is mentioned or described, which itself is suggestive. He speaks like one of age and great experience, and his sorrow is dignified and chastened. Over all, faith rises in sublime control. There is too much internal evidence and concurrent authority, to doubt that the occasion was that of David’s flight from Absalom, and his residence at Mahanaim. 2 Samuel 17:27-29; 2 Samuel 18:1-5.TITLE:
Upon Neginah The singular of Neginoth. Delitzsch thinks that upon Neginath differs from in Neginoth, Psalm iv, title, the former, taken as a feminine noun, signifying “upon the music of stringed instruments,” and the latter “with the accompaniment of stringed instruments.”
2. From the end of the earth Or, taking ארצ , ( arets,) “earth,” in the sense of land, that is, the Hebrew territory, as it sometimes signifies, the description would be literally true, for Mahanaim, where we suppose David now was, lay not far from the eastern border, in the central mountains of Gilead. But it seems far to be separated from the sanctuary.
Overwhelmed Or, faint, as Lamentations 2:19, “children that faint for hunger.” See Psalms 102:0, title.
Rock that is higher than I “Rock,” here, is to be taken in the figurative sense of fortress, stronghold, place of security. The “Rock that is higher than I,” is one that is above his kingly command, safer than all his military defences the immediate protection of God himself. Out of himself, above himself, he seeks his refuge in God.
The fundamental passage is Deuteronomy 32:4, and it is parallel to Isaiah 26:4, where “everlasting strength” is in Hebrew, the rock of ages, from which comes our hymn of that title. Compare Psalms 62:2; Psalms 62:7, also, Psalms 71:3, where “strong habitation” denotes rock of habitation.
3. For thou hast been a shelter… a strong tower A bringing out the figure of “the rock… higher than I,” in previous verse.
Thou hast been A remembrance of former mighty perils and deliverances. Past mercies inspire confidence for the future.
4. I will abide in thy tabernacle The figure changes from a rock or fortress to a tabernacle, in itself an emblem of transitoriness and frailty; but the idea of security is still preserved. The allusion is to the “tabernacle” in the wilderness (“ thy tabernacle”) which, like the tent of the chief in a military encampment, is the place of honour, authority, and safety. During the march through the wilderness the tabernacle was placed in the center of the camp, surrounded first by eight thousand five hundred Levites, in the form of a square, and beyond those, in the same form, by the entire population of the tribes, including over six hundred thousand warriors. See on Numbers 2:0. Thus the tent of Jehovah was the throne of power, in the midst of the people. The allusion is not uncommon. See on Psalms 27:5; Psalms 31:20; Psalms 32:7; Psalms 91:1.
Trust in the covert of thy wings The wings of the cherubim in the holy of holies in the “tabernacle.” Exodus 25:18-22; Psalms 57:1
5. My vows A sacred bond of union and covenant between him and God, and he appeals to them as such.
Given me the heritage of those that fear thy name “Fear” of God is often put for true piety in the Old Testament, and the promises of both temporal and spiritual good are restricted to this character. The possession here named is real, as the word denotes, not merely promissory. God had conferred on him the portion of the righteous, and his enemies cannot wrest it from him. Comp. Psalms 21:2-4
6. Thou wilt prolong the king’s life The change from the first to the third person is a poetical liberty. The insurrection was a conspiracy against the life of the king. If it succeeded he must die, but faith assures to him the victory. The Hebrew is very simple, “thou shall add days upon the days of the king; his years as generation and generation.” See Psalms 21:4-7; and compare 2 Samuel 7:16; 2Sa 7:19 ; 2 Samuel 7:25; 2 Samuel 7:29; from which it appears that the king’s “life,” here, includes his dynasty: perhaps, also, in a higher sense, the King Messiah.
7. He shall abide before God That is, he shall be established upon his throne in the presence, and by the favour, of God. “When kings are said to ‘ abide’ or sit, it is commonly in the more formal sense of sitting on the throne, the judgment seat.” Perowne.
Oh prepare mercy and truth Or, appoint mercy and truth, distinguishing qualities of the divine character and government. These he would have appointed as his watch and guard, that his acts might conform to the divine model.
8. So will I sing praise The particle “so” indicates the agreement of what follows with what precedes. As if he would say, In accordance with these my petitions and their gracious fulfilment, I will sing praise to thy name for ever, etc. Neither prayer nor the answer of prayer will avail anything if the response of our lives and thanksgivings be not in harmony therewith.
That I may daily perform my vows To the end, or with the aim, of performing my vows daily. Thus the goodly effect of all grace given, and all afflictions endured, shall culminate in a devout and obedient life.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 61". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25