To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm for the sons of Korah.
The blessings of the worshippers of Jehovah, and the forms and excellency of true worship, are the themes of this psalm, of which the author has a lively apprehension and a true subjective experience. The psalmist and the nation are, however, in some great calamity, (Psalms 84:8-9;) absent from, yet longing, “even fainting, for the courts of Jehovah,” (Psalms 84:2;) and now can come to Zion only through the “valley of tears.” (Psalms 84:6;) yea, the temple and altars were in ruins, (Psalms 84:3;) still a tone of joy and hopefulness pervades the psalm, the human ground of which hope is the “anointed” One, for whom special prayer is now made, (Psalms 84:9.) Through him the nation and national worship should revive. We must refer the psalm to the recent close of the period of the captivity, when many of the exiles had returned and were reviving the national life and religion by laying the foundations of the second temple. Ezra 3:8-13.The principal divisions are two: the first a meditation, Psalms 84:1-7; the second a prayer, Psalms 84:8-12.TITLE:
Upon Gittith—See title of Psalms 8.
For the sons of Korah—Or, Korahites, a Levitical family in the time of David, a branch of which was devoted to temple music, (1 Chronicles 6:33;) called, also, Kohathites. See title of Psalms 42
Tabernacles—The plural form can mean nothing more than the apartments and cloisters of the sacred place.
O Lord of hosts—Or, of armies. This has been called one of the Eloheem psalms. Eloheem, (God,) is used six times; Jehovah, God, twice; Jehovah of hosts, three times; God of hosts, once; Jehovah, God of hosts, once. Like the other Korahitic productions, it is highly lyrical and cheerful. The heart is in lively sympathy with God and his worship, and the frequent use of the divine name is impassioned.
2.My soul longeth’ fainteth—My desires for the courts of Jehovah are such, that my strength wastes away.
My heart and my flesh crieth out for’ God—The psalmist’s desire for the “courts of the Lord” was a longing after God himself. The spiritual sense predominates.
3.The sparrow hath found a house, etc.—To spiritualize this verse, or to convert it into a delicate symbolism, as if the sparrow and swallow represented the psalmist, who had at last found the place of desire, even the altars of God, is to abandon sober interpretation. Neither can we explain it of the well known nesting of birds in oriental mosques and idol temples. The plain historic sense only is admissible. The temple and city had lain desolate for seventy years during the captivity, from B.C. 585 to 515, (see notes on Psalms 74:3; Psalms 74:7,) and the birds had nested in the ruins. Thus the returned exiles found things, and mournfully describe them. , (tzippor,) here rendered “sparrow,” is a generic term for bird, generally small birds, the connexion determining the species. It occurs thirty nine times in the Old Testament, and is always translated in our English Bible either by bird or fowl, except here and in Psalms 102:7, (see note there,) where also it is rendered “sparrow.” But in these last mentioned places two kinds of bird are denoted. In the text before us its social habit and its disposition to nest among ruins are alluded to, and the sparrow proper is intended.
Swallow—The original denotes a bird that flies in circles and glances on the wing, as the “swallow” does.
4.Dwell in thy house—The dwellers in the house of God are not simply the Levites, who always serve there, but those who in heart abide there, the spiritual dwellers.
They will be still praising thee—Notwithstanding any present affliction or temporary banishment from Zion.
5.In whose heart are the ways of them—Hebrew, The highways are in their hearts. The “ways,” or highways, are the roads, or pilgrim routes, leading to Jerusalem, “the ways of Zion,” Lamentations 1:4:—the principal roads taken in going up to the annual feasts. The true worshipper loved these “ways” and delighted to travel them; they were “in” his “heart,” because they led to the sanctuary, the dwelling-place of Jehovah. In the enthusiastic periods of their history, the Moslems took great care of the pilgrim routes to Mecca, and to provide khans, or resting stations, along the way.
6.Valley of Baca—Valley of weeping, or lamentation. That there was a valley of this name would appear from the manner of referring to it, and also from the use of the definite article, , (the Baca.) But it is not the head of the valley of Rephaim, which Josephus (Ant., Psalms 7:4) and the Septuagint (in 2 Samuel 5:23) have called “the place of weeping,” nor the Bochim near Bethel, of Judges 2:1; Judges 2:4-5. It must have been some road, or section of a road, notable in the pilgrim routes, or in the route of the returning exiles, (see Jeremiah 31:8-9; Jeremiah 50:4-5,) painful to travel and specially arid and waste. Yet even this, to the devout and joyful pilgrim, would be made delightful, as if filled with fountains and covered with verdure.
The rain also filleth the pools—Instead of “pools,” read blessings, as in 2 Chronicles 20:26; instead of “filleth,” read covereth; and for “rain,” understand the early, or autumnal rains, (beginning with November,) which prepare the ground for the seed, as in Joel 2:23. The sense is, The early rain, which quickens the parched ground into fertility, covereth the “valley of weeping” with blessings. In Palestine there is little rain from the last of April to the first of November.
7.They go from strength to strength—Thus their faith and love convert obstacles into encouragements, and their journey is as a march of triumph, each victory of faith adding new strength, and each khan or halting station a refreshment, not to the body only, but to the soul as well, proving that “he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger,” (Job 17:9,) and so, despite all difficulties, they shall appear in Zion before God “with songs of joy,” as predicted, Isaiah 35:10
9.Our shield—Our protector; so the word is figuratively used Psalms 47:9; Hosea 4:18, where shields is rendered rulers, because they are the natural protectors of the people. The title points to the imperilled state of the nation.
Look upon the face of thine anointed—To “look upon the face,” in oriental phrase, is to give assurance of favour. To “look upon the face” of a suppliant is to grant his request. If he has offended and asks mercy, instead of saying, “I forgive you,” the answer is, “I have seen thy face.” David said of Absalom, “Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face,” (2 Samuel 14:24;) a mark of high displeasure. Genesis 43:3; 2 Samuel 3:13. But who is the “anointed” here mentioned? Those who think David wrote the psalm apply the title to him. But Zerubbabel must be understood rather, who, with Joshua the high priest, (one the head of the spiritual, and the other of the secular, interests of the nation,) are called the “anointed ones,” or those consecrated with oil. Zechariah 4:14. These leaders of the nation built the great altar, (Ezra 3:2,) and also the temple, (Ezra 5:2,) and the public prosperity rested with them. See Haggai 1:1, and Zechariah 3, 4, The prayer assumes that if God “look upon the face” of the representatives of the nation in this crisis, the nation will rise from its ruins. Spiritually Christ is our representative, God’s “anointed,” in whose face he can look complacently and grant us peace.
10.For—The conjunction connects that which precedes concerning the loveliness of God’s house, (Psalms 84:1,) the blessings of those who dwell there, (Psalms 84:4-7,) and the prayer of the anointed, (Psalms 84:9,) with that which follows, and gives the reason for the psalmist’s pre-eminent choice of a suppliant’s place in the courts of God’s house.
I had rather—I have chosen, etc. The preterit indicates a choice already made.
Doorkeeper— This is not the idea. A “doorkeeper” in the East, holds an office of honour and trust, not of humility. See Esther 6:2. “The most dignified native of Ceylon is the Maha Modeliar of the governor’s gate, to whom all others must make obeisance.”—Roberts. The Hebrew simply reads, I have chosen rather to sit [or recline] at the threshold, etc., that is, as a suppliant, a beggar. See Luke 16:20. So the Hindu saying, “I am in great trouble, I will go and lie down at the door of the temple.”—Roberts.
House—Not the temple of Solomon, which was now in ruins, but the new temple, now in process of erection, or the tabernacle, or place of worship. See on Psalms 116:19.
Dwell in the tents of wickedness—The description is that of free nomadic life with luxury, and the comparison lies between this, without God, and the privilege of a worshipper in the outer court, or a beggar lying at the door, of God’s house. See Hebrews 11:24-26
11.A sun—To enlighten, enliven, and gladden. See Malachi 4:2; Psalms 4:7.
Shield—The symbol of defence. Psalms 84:9.
Grace and glory—The idea is, salvation and honour. The spiritual sense must be put foremost, and the honour is that, primarily, which God gives to a pious nation or individual. 1 Samuel 2:30; Jeremiah 43:4.
Uprightly— See on Psalms 15.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 84". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany