Bible Commentaries

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Psalms 66


To the chief Musician, A Song or Psalm.

Here, again, we rely upon internal evidence for a clew to the date and occasion of the psalm. The nation had been delivered from great and cruel oppression, (Psalms 66:10-12,) and that deliverance had been brought about by terrible judgments, of which the nations of the earth had been witnesses, (Psalms 66:3-5,) in view of which they are now called to join in ascribing honour and glory to the true God, by confessing him supreme, Psalms 66:1-2. Of this deliverance and of these judgments the passage of the Red Sea was a type, Psalms 66:6. The Greek title has it, “A song of a psalm of resurrection,” probably founded on Psalms 66:9; Psalms 66:12, (see notes,) so great a deliverance being equal to a resurrection. But to what event or period of history do these apply? Hengstenberg says, Modern criticism “pretty generally affirms that the deliverance celebrated in this psalm is the deliverance from the Babylonish captivity,” and there is no objection of sufficient weight to overthrow this opinion. See the notes.

The strophic divisions are three: Psalms 66:1-7, a call upon the nations of the earth to give glory to God on account of his judgments and his power; Psalms 66:8-12, a call upon the covenant people to bless God for his great deliverance; Psalms 66:13-20, a pledge of the Church to perform the vows made in affliction.


A song or psalm A song-psalm. See on title of Psalms 30:0

Verse 1

1. All ye lands Literally, all the earth, as in Psalms 66:4. The call is universal.

Verse 2

2. Make his praise glorious Give glory as his praise, or make his glory praise. The nouns are in apposition, and the sense not easy. The English version, by treating one as an adjective, has given euphony of sound without clearness of thought. The idea seems to be, that as the praise of God consists in thankfully confessing and declaring his acts, we thus make his peculiar glory to consist of praise. This is the thought repeated and exegetically amplified in the next verse.

Verse 3

3. Say unto God The psalmist now directs how to fulfil the requirement of Psalms 66:2: namely, by rehearsing and proclaiming the great events which have transpired, and ascribing them to God.

Terrible… thy works The redemption of Israel from Egypt and Babylon was accomplished by acts of divine power which struck the idolatrous nations with terror. Thus is it in all ages. The triumph of the Church is the downfall of Christ’s enemies. Grace and judgment play their respective parts. See Psalms 2:0; Revelation 18:0; Revelation 19:1-8.

Submit themselves כחשׁ , ( kahhash,) rendered “submit,” properly signifies to deceive, to lie, to feign, and must be here understood of that feigned submission, outward and formal but unreal and heartless which captives yield to a conqueror. So in Psalms 18:44; Psalms 81:15. Thus “the haters of the Lord shall submit themselves” with forced confession, being subdued and terrified at the majesty, power, and glory of God.

Verse 4

4. Shall worship thee Shall prostrate themselves, as in Psalms 72:11, whether in forced submission from the overawing prevalence of divine truth or from loving obedience is not stated.

Verse 5

5. Come and see the works of God The address is still, as in Psalms 66:1-3, to the nations of the earth. The “works of God” here referred to particularly relate to the great political revolutions of the kingdoms attending the downfall of the Babylonian monarchy, and the uprising of that of the Medo-Persian, eventuating in the fulfilment of the divine purpose and promise toward his Church in its liberation and re-establishment. Compare Daniel 5:30-31; Daniel 6:28 with chap. 9 and Ezra 1:0.

Terrible in his doing See Psalms 66:3.

Children of men Poetically for men, mankind, especially the world as opposed to Israel.

Verse 6

6. He turned the sea… the flood That is, the sea and the river. The allusion is to the crossing the Red Sea and the river Jordan by the Israelites.

There did we rejoice in him There let us rejoice, or, there will we rejoice in him. The address now is to the congregation, to rejoice that the God of ancient Israel is the same to his people in all ages, as he has reassured them by his recent acts. The adverb “there” should here take the sense of therein, as in Hosea 6:7, and read, Therein will “we rejoice in him.”

Verse 7

7. His eyes behold His eyes watch. A police-watch is intended. Thus exact knowledge and perfect power leave no hope of impunity.

Nations The Hebrew word is almost exclusively used of the Gentiles, or heathen nations, throughout the Bible. It is to these he has chiefly addressed himself hitherto. Psalms 66:8 opens a new division of the psalm, with new associations.

Let not the rebellious A caution to the haughty monarchs who contemned Israel. See Psalms 2:3; Psalms 2:12; 2 Kings 18:29-35; Daniel 3:15

Verse 8

8. Bless our God, ye people The second strophe is here introduced by a call to the Church. “People” stands for the covenant people Israel, the Church, as “nations” does for Gentiles, Psalms 66:7; and “all ye lands,” “all the earth,” and “children of men” do for the same, Psalms 66:1; Psalms 66:4-5. ]n the former verses he speaks of “God,” now he speaks of “our God.” Hitherto he has warned haughty kings and nations, now he invites them to spiritual worship.

Verse 9

9. Holdeth our soul in life Setteth up, placeth firmly, our soul in the life; that is, in the true condition and life of thy covenant people; a literal description of an anastasis, or resurrection, where the Hebrew שׂום , ( seem,) to place, put, set up, and the corresponding Septuagint θεμενου , answer to the New Testament αναστασις , resurrection, “the person or thing put, [ placed, set up, ] regarded as standing erect rather than lying down.” Delitzsch. This idea is here sustained by the parallelism, thus:

Placing [erecting] our soul in the life,

And hast not given over [delivered, abandoned] our foot to the sliding.

The firm, erect posture is contrasted with the tottering and sliding condition. Comp. Psalms 9:13, and the use of שׂום , ( set up,) Psalms 74:4; Job 5:11, This mode of speech, which is not unfrequent, belongs to a people who had an idea of the resurrection of the human body.

Verse 10

10. As silver is tried Such figures indicate that the art of refining the precious metals was known to the Hebrews. The history of the tabernacle in the wilderness shows them to have been advanced in the art of metallurgy, which they had learned of the Egyptians. See Psalms 12:6; Exodus 25:0. In the peninsula of Mount Sinai are still found numerous excavations of ancient Egyptian mines of iron and copper, also turquois and manganese, with shafts, vast slag heaps, ruins of smelting furnaces, dwellings, temples and hieroglyphics, dating anterior to, and at the time of, the exodus. In their oppressed condition it is not improbable that many of the Israelites worked in these mines. Moses led the people within a few miles of a principal colony of miners, (in Serabit el Khadim,) then evidently in full operation, “having most probably a considerable military establishment to preserve discipline, as the miners were chiefly selected from criminals and prisoners of war.” PALMER’S Desert of the Exodus.

Verse 11

11. Net More properly a fastness, a stronghold, as the word almost always means; here referring to the prison of their captivity, like the labyrinths of a mountain cavern. Psalms 66:11-12 describe their sufferings and degradation.

Verse 12

12. Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads Rabbi Schwarz, of Jerusalem, thinks ( Palest., p. 422) this an allusion to the method of transporting travellers over the wadies in the rainy seasons, when the streams overflow their banks. “When they begin to grow a little shallow, and the travellers are tired of waiting, a set of tall and strongly built Bedouins make their appearance, and, as it is their business to transport men and baggage across the stream, they undress themselves completely, take the traveller who embraces their head quite firmly on their shoulders, and wade through, whilst the water often stands up to their breast, and place their burden safely on the other shore.” The service is alluded to as quite servile and humiliating.

Verse 13

13. I will go into thy house Here begins the closing division of the psalm. The poet changes the first person plural, “our,” “we,” for the first person singular, “I.” Hitherto he has spoken for the Church, now he speaks as an individual; yet from the heart of the Church. “Thy house,” here, must be understood of the place where God was worshipped, whether a temple or a tent, (1 Samuel 10:20,) or the place of the great altar. Ezra 3:1-6. Compare Genesis 28:19, where “Bethel,” house of God, applies to a place.

With burnt offerings “In the burnt offering the animal was entirely burnt, and the act of burning was the culminating point. It was the sacrifice designed to give expression to entire, full, unconditional self-surrender to Jehovah.” Kurtz. This was befitting in acknowledgment of so great a deliverance as the nation had experienced.

I will pay thee my vows The נדר , ( neder,) or sacred vow, was a solemn promise to do something in consideration of some good, yet future, which God should bestow. Such vows never became due till after the blessing for which they had been made was received, but then they must be promptly fulfilled, (Deuteronomy 23:21-23,) with or without sacrifice, according to the conditions. Here, as appears from the connexion, (Psalms 66:15,) the object of the vow was sacrifice the most costly, profuse and spiritually significant, and the psalmist hastens with joy to perform it.

Verse 15

15. He enumerates the victims to be offered in fulfilment of his vow.

Fatlings Fat sheep, or “marrowy lambs.” These were for his “burnt offerings.” Psalms 66:13. Another kind of sacrifices follows, שׁלמים , ( shelamim, or peace-offerings,) consisting of rams, bullocks, and goats; but as these were offered as shelamim for Aaron and the tribes, (Leviticus 9:4; Numbers 7:0,) we should consider the psalmist here as speaking in behalf of the whole people, while the costliness and number of the sacrifices indicate his zeal and devotion.

Verse 16

16. A beautiful illustration of a personal confession and experience of divine grace.

All ye that fear God He speaks to the covenant people, and such as fear God among the nations. Such only could understand or profit by the recital. Many among the heathen had learned to fear God by means of the miracles during the captivity, among whom were the kings Nebuchadnezzar, Darius, and Cyrus. Daniel 3:28-29; Daniel 4:37; Daniel 6:25-28; Ezra 1:1-4

Verses 17-19

17-19. He rehearses the steps of his experience.

I cried Earnestly prayed.

Extolled with my tongue Made open, verbal confession, and offered praise.

If I regard iniquity To be free from “iniquity,” the psalmist had to be sincere in purpose and in act, his motives being known to and judged by God, who looketh at the heart.

God hath heard me The answer came. The thing asked was given. A simple narrative and testimony.

Verse 20

20. Hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy Prayer and mercy comprehend all. They belong together. Prayer represents our true attitude and implies our whole duty to God, and mercy comprehends the whole work of God for us.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 66". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.