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To the chief Musician on Neginoth, A Psalm or Song of Asaph.
Little need be said of the subject and occasion of this psalm, which answer to those of Psalms 75:0 as face answers to face in a glass. The chief mark of distinction is, that this psalm treats, with freshness of delineation, the physical circumstances of the overthrow of Sennacherib’s army, while Psalms 75:0, looking from the moral standpoint, contemplates the folly and daring blasphemy of the Assyrian monarch, the supremacy of an avenging Providence, and the responsibilities of the throne in the re-establishment of order and government over a wasted and distracted people. Some intimations of Psalms 75:0 would seem to place that composition prior to the catastrophe, but its general tone of reflective piety, coupled with the ever-present care for restoration and righteous government, better befit the meditations of the pious king after the event. See introduction to Psalms 75, 48 for Scripture reference to the historical occasion. Artistically, our psalm bears the stamp of finish. Delitzsch calls it “a model of symmetrical strophe-structure.” It falls into four strophes of six lines each, ending with Psalms 76:4; Psalms 76:7; Psalms 76:10; Psalms 76:12, respectively. As to its argument, or subject matter, Psalms 76:1-19.76.2, are an expression of God’s presence and greatness in his Church; Psalms 76:3-19.76.10 detail the physical circumstances and awful majesty of the judgment; Psalms 76:11-19.76.12 are an exhortation to renewed fidelity to him.
On Neginoth For the accompaniment of stringed instruments; the Septuagint adds, “ A song for, or in respect to, the Assyrian.
1. In Judah is God known The glory of Israel, then and now, is the knowledge and confession of an actually present God and Saviour. His presence supposes the fulness of his works of grace.
Israel Now represented only by the kingdom of Judah, the ten tribes having already gone into captivity.
2. Salem The ancient name of Jerusalem, here poetically recalled.
Genesis 14:18; Hebrews 7:1.
His tabernacle Such only it was when David first removed the ark to Mount Zion, (2 Samuel 6:17; and such was God’s dwelling place during David’s life.
3. There brake he the arrows The adverbial particle, שׁם , ( sham,) “there,” is not to be understood of the place where the miracle of destruction was wrought, but of that whence the miraculous power emanated, namely Zion, or Salem, and should be translated thence, from thence. Thus, “His dwelling-place in Zion. Thence brake he,” etc. So the word is used, Genesis 11:8, “The Lord scattered them abroad from thence;” and Genesis 26:17, “Isaac departed thence.” It is from his dwelling-place God hears and answers prayer. It is a lofty conception of Zion as the throne of Deity.
Arrows of the bow Hebrew, Flames, or lightnings of the bow, that is, flaming or flashing arrows, a description not uncommon of furbished weapons. Job 39:23; Nahum 3:3. Comp. Ephesians 6:16.
And the battle Either poetically for the weapons of war, or directly the war itself. This latter is the true idea. He shivered the battle; that is, ended the war by one stroke, in destroying the warriors. See Hosea 2:18, (Hebrews 76:20,) and the parallel passage, Psalms 46:9
4. Mountains of prey The verse is elliptical and obscure, but literally the words would seem to mean, mountains where beasts of prey abounded and held high carnival. Song of Solomon 4:8. Others suppose the reference is to mountains whose rocky dens offered a retreat for robbers where they could bestow their plunder, and from which they issued forth. In either case the metaphor is easily deduced. The language is applicable to the haughty invaders who had spread terror throughout the nation, making it a war of plunder as well as of conquest, and who, probably, had stored their spoils in fortified high places, here called “mountains of prey” equal to plunder mountains. Stanley supposes reference is made to the “armory” of the “house of the forest of Lebanon” on Zion, where were displayed the shields of mighty men. See Song of Solomon 4:4; Isaiah 22:8. Hammond takes the idea to be, that God is more glorious in power and majesty than the strong mountain fortifications where the enemy made his rendezvous. Either sense might be accepted, though the first seems most natural.
5. Stout-hearted are spoiled Instead of making plunder of God’s people they themselves are become a spoil.
Slept their sleep Their perpetual sleep, the sleep of death. Jeremiah 51:39-24.51.57.
None… have found their hands They found not “their hands” in the sense of discovering, bringing back to light, a lost object, though the least degree of self-consciousness would have sufficed for this; nor yet in the sense to have power over, as the word may signify. 1 Samuel 23:17; Psalms 21:9. These mighty men, whose name had been the terror of the nations, now had neither consciousness to discover, nor ability to use, their hands. The words are in contrast with their boasted strength and skill.
6. The chariot and horse Cavalry and the war-chariot were the terror of ancient warfare.
Dead sleep The word indicates a profounder sleep than is natural, (Daniel 8:18; Daniel 10:9,) and the language intimates that the judgment was not heralded by any alarm. Whatever physical cause was used, if any, it occasioned no disturbance of the camp. Silently, at the rebuke of Jehovah, from a deeper sleep than was natural they slept the sleep of death. See note on Psalms 46:6
7. When once thou art angry From the moment of thy anger, or when once thine anger forms itself into a purpose. Time, with God, is nothing. He can do in an instant, as by the fiat, “Be light,” (Genesis 1:3,) as easily as in a thousand years. “He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth.” Psalms 104:32. He touched the Assyrian camp, and they slept the sleep of death.
8. Judgment to be heard from heaven The case was a clear one. No delay of secondary causes. The judgment fell like a bolt from heaven. No one, not even Sennacherib, doubted it was of God.
The earth feared, and was still A sublime conception of the majesty of God. “When he arose to judgment” the tumult was hushed, the din of war ceased. Silence and fear pervaded the earth, when God arose for the “meek” ones. See on Psalms 46:10.“The Babylonian Talmud hath it, that this destruction of the army of the Assyrians was executed by lightning; and some of the targums are quoted for saying the same thing. But it seems most likely that it was effected by bringing on them the hot wind which is frequent in those parts, and often, when it lights among a multitude, destroys great numbers of them in a moment, as it frequently happens in those vast caravans of Mohammedans who go their annual pilgrimages to Mecca.” Prideaux.
And the words of Isaiah (Isaiah 37:7,) which threatened Sennacherib with a “ blast ” from heaven, seem to denote the same. The poet has the same:
“For the angel of death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed.”
The account of Herodotus, (book ii, chap. 141,) 450 years before Christ, that “so immense a number of mice infested by night Sennacherib’s camp that their quivers and bows, together with what secured their shields to their arms, were gnawed in pieces,” and thus rendered the army powerless, while it corroborates the great fact of the catastrophe, and calls Sennacherib by name, is incorrect as to the circumstances, and puerile. See on Psalms 46:0
10. The wrath of man shall praise thee As furnishing an occasion for the display of the divine character and attributes in delivering his people and punishing sin, and hence the increased praises of the triumphant righteous. So of Pharaoh, Exodus 9:16, and chaps, 14 and 15.
Remainder of wrath A passage much tortured by interpreters. Is the wrath of man, or of God, here intended? This depends upon the signification of the word חגר , ( hhagar,) rendered restrain in the common version. Its literal and usual sense is, to gird on, to bind. In this sense God is supposed to gird on the remainder of his wrath, not required for the present judgment, in order to new and further vengeance upon his enemies. But this certainly would not be חמת אדם , “the wrath of man,” which is the subject, and most literally defined. The word admits the sense of “restrain,” and the connexion requires it. Furst, though proposing another reading of the text, derives the sense “restrain” from the cognate Arabic and Syriac roots, and says, “The signification of to restrain proceeds from to bind,” and renders שׁארית חמת , the remnant of hostile wrath, which would give what we conceive to be the exact idea. So Phillips: “The word may denote girding in the sense of restraining.” Calvin: “More simple is the interpretation, that although the enemies cease not to breathe cruelty, yet shalt thou impede and restrain them, that they shall not be able to bring their attempts to pass.”
11. Vow, and pay unto the Lord As the fittest return for all his benefits. Psalms 116:12-19.116.14; Hosea 14:2.
Bring presents unto him According to Asiatic custom, taxes and tribute often take the form of presents, which the governors of provinces bring to their sovereign. They are a token of submission and loyalty. Thus, those who “brought no presents to Saul,” refused to acknowledge him as their king. 1 Samuel 10:27. See Psalms 68:29; Psalms 72:10. The invasion of Sennacherib had been brought on by Hezekiah’s having cast off the tributary yoke of Assyria, which Ahaz, his father, had wickedly assumed, and, in doing so, had revolted from Jehovah. Hezekiah now exhorts the nation to bring tribute to Jehovah, their only lawful sovereign. 2 Kings 16:0; 2 Chronicles 28:16-14.28.25; Isaiah 7:1-23.7.12.
Round about him That is, the surrounding nations on every side of Judea. Let Jehovah be confessed by them and by all people to be the supreme God. And such should have been the effect of this miracle, especially in regard to Assyria; but it failed, as had also the preaching of Jonah about one hundred years before. To-day men are digging out the buried ruins of Nineveh, the proud capital, from the overlaying mounds of rubbish by which its very site had been lost from history; and among its inscribed and sculptured stone slabs are found the records and memorials of this same Sennacherib, his war with Hezekiah, and his siege of Lachish.
12. Cut off the spirit of princes The breath of princes, as in Job 9:18; Psalms 104:29. Or, the spirit of princes may be taken for the ambition, haughtiness, pride, of princes. “God puts an end to the defiant, arrogant bearing of the tyrants of the earth, and becomes at last the feared of all the kings of the earth.” Delitzsch.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 76". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent