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Bible Commentaries

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

Psalms 9


To the chief Musician upon Muthlabben, A Psalm of David.

The intimations of date and of the personal situation of the author of this psalm are only general. It was certainly written after the removal of the ark to Zion, (Psalms 9:11; Psalms 9:14,) and clearly after some great victory over foreign nations, (Psalms 9:5; Psalms 9:15,) and while the war cloud still hung over the land, (Psalms 9:13; Psalms 9:18-20.) Thus, the whole is intermingled with praise for the past and with prayer and trust for the future, and is a graphic picture of the Church’s alternating conflicts and triumphs in all ages. Historically it suits well to David’s condition during the second Syrian war, after the victories recorded in 2 Samuel 10:15-19; 1 Chronicles 19:0. The style, which identifies it with the earlier Hebrew age, is abrupt and impassioned, betraying the profound emotions of the writer at the moral significance of the recent events. The psalm belongs to the alphabetical class, though an imperfect specimen of its kind. See on Psalms 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 119, 145. The strophes, which are generally marked by the alphabetical arrangement, may be thus given: in Psalms 9:1-2 the theme, praise, is stated; in Psalms 9:3-6, the divine judgments, personal and general, manifested in the ruined condition of his enemies, which are the grounds of this praise, are set forth; Psalms 9:7-10 state that Jehovah is eternal, and shall judge the world, and be a refuge for them that trust in him; Psalms 9:11-12 are an exhortation to praise Jehovah because he will not leave the righteous to perish with the wicked; Psalms 9:13-14 contain the author’s prayer for further help, that he may more perfectly show forth the divine praise before the congregation; Psalms 9:15-16 declare that the ruin of the wicked, being the effect of their own evil design, evidences God’s righteous judgment; Psalms 9:17-18 are a further prediction of the overthrow of all the wicked, and the restitution of the righteous; and Psalms 9:19-20 are a call upon God to hasten and complete his righteous judgments.


Upon Muth-labben An obscure designation. Furst translates, upon death of Ben, taking lamed ( ל ) in לבנ , ( laben,) as the sign of the genitive, and Ben as the proper name of one of the choristers of the second class, (1 Chronicles 15-18,) whose sudden death, like that of Uzzah, might have given to his musical corps thereafter the title of Death of Ben. Compare Perez-Uzzah, (1 Chronicles 13:10-11,) and “al-Jeduthun,” in the title of Psalms 62:0. But it seems better, with Gesenius, to take “al-mooth” (dropping makkeph, and making one word) as the same as “ala-moth,” in the title of Psalms 46:0, and “ben” ( son) as a name of age, ( boy,) and a collective, and read, with virgin’s voice, for the boys; or, to the precentor of the virgin’s mode, for boys. Women could not appear in the public choirs. but their voice, or mode, could be represented by boys. Or, taking “Ben” as a proper name, as above, read upon the virgin mode, to Ben. But the former is the preferable sense.

Verses 1-2

1, 2. I will praise Each of the four lines in these two verses begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, but beyond this the alphabetical arrangement is imperfect. The verses are replete with various expressions and modes of praise, as if the heart overflowed with joy.

Most High An attributive name of God, who had shown himself to be the absolutely Supreme.

Verses 3-6

3-6. A graphic description of the desolating effect of the war.

When mine enemies are turned back Or, because “mine enemies are turned back.” The preposition may denote both time ( when) and reason ( because.)

Perish at thy presence Literally, at thy appearance, or, at thy face. God appeared, or looked on them, and they retreated backward, stumbled, and perished. See Exodus 14:24.

For thou Because thou hast executed my judgment and my cause. The language in Psalms 9:4-5 is strictly juridical.

O thou enemy Rather read this line, the enemy are perished, [they are] perpetual desolations.

Cities… their memorial is perished The very names of the cities are forgotten, so complete is their ruin. David’s second Syrian war extended from Ammon in Arabia to Helam in Syria, a distance of about three hundred miles, and probably in no district in the world, of equal extent, are there at this day more ruins of ancient cities whose very names have perished, than in this.

Thou… destroyed cities “Thou,” here, refers not to his enemies, but to God, as in Psalms 9:4-5. God alone is the dispenser of these judgments, and this blotting out of cities and peoples is the threatened doom of his enemies. Exodus 17:14; Deuteronomy 25:19

Verses 7-10

7-10. The eternity of God, his universal dominion, and his discriminating judgments, which preserve the righteous and encourage trust in him, are here contrasted with the view just given of the perpetual destruction of the wicked and their vain hopes.

Prepared his throne Established his tribunal.

For judgment For righteousness. These are formal statements of a most solemn truth. The world is under righteous government. The preparations for justice are already established.

Judge… minister judgment The words are not synonymous. The former, שׁפשׂ , ( shaphat,) means judicial sentence, the latter דינ , ( deen,) to conduct the cause, as between the parties, to a righteous conclusion. The former relates to absolute equity, the latter to the mode of judicial procedure.

Refuge for the oppressed “Refuge,” here, means a high place, or a strong castle upon a high place, the surest defence known in ancient fortification. In this and the following verses the strongest inducement to lovingly trust and seek God is held out, for his judgments are tenderly protective of such, and terrible only to the wicked.

Verses 11-12

11, 12. Sing praises to the Lord We have here a call for public thanksgiving by all the people in their religious assemblies.

Which dwelleth in Zion Zion was now the center of worship for the nation, (see Psalms 9:14,) which fixes the date of this psalm as being not earlier than the Syrian wars.

Declare among the people Peoples, here plural, עמים , ( ammim,) cannot, as it commonly does, refer to Gentile nations, but to the whole Israelitish family, the covenant tribes.

Inquisition for blood Searches for the detection and punishment of those who shed innocent blood. See Genesis 9:5; Ezekiel 33:6.

He remembereth them That is, those who “trust” and “seek him.” Psalms 9:10.

Verses 13-14

13, 14. Consider my trouble The tone of the psalm suddenly changes from that of triumphal joy to supplication. Such sudden transitions are not unfrequent in poetry of the earlier and ruder ages, but they are never without cause. In this case, assuming the occasion of the psalm to be as we have supposed, though an unparalleled victory had been gained, the causes of anxiety and apprehension had not been fully removed. The Ammonitish branch of the war, the centre of disaffection, still lingered heavily. 2 Samuel 10:0, and 2 Samuel 12:26-31. David’s kingdom had been brought to the brink of destruction, and the elements of war were kindling for a new explosion. This is set forth in Psalms 9:13.

That I may show forth all thy praise The end sought was not his own aggrandizement, but the glory of God.

In the gates The gates were the chief places of concourse, and of courts of justice.

Daughter of Zion A poetic figure for the inhabitants, the people.

Verses 15-16

15, 16. The natural anxiety for the final result is but momentary. The psalmist returns to the consciousness of victory and restful confidence in the divine judgments.

Sunk down That is, plunged.

Pit See on Psalms 7:15.

Net Another figure setting forth the same fact. The same repeated, Psalms 9:16.

The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands This is God’s method of justice with men. See note on Psalms 7:15.

Higgaion. Selah A musical designation. “Higgaion” means a murmur, or muffled sound, and “selah” denotes pause. Gesenius explains it: “Let the instruments strike up a symphony, and the singers pause.” “Higgaion” is translated “meditation” Psalms 19:14, and “solemn sound” Psalms 92:3. As a musical sign, it would denote that the sentiment of the piece called for solemn thought, while the interlude proceeded in muffled tone.

Verses 17-18

17, 18. The point in the last strophe is, that God had made the devices of the wicked the instruments of their own defeat and punishment. David now proceeds to a further prediction of their overthrow, and the vindication of the oppressed righteous.

Hell This is unquestionably one of the places where sheol signifies a place of future punishment, and will fully bear the translation here given. Nothing less could suit the sense. The righteous, no less than the wicked, will be turned into the grave, but not into hell. Compare, on sheol, Proverbs 5:5; Proverbs 9:18; Proverbs 23:14; Job 21:13; and notes on Psalms 6:5; Psalms 16:10.

Verses 19-20

19, 20. The closing strophe is an urgent call for hastening the righteous judgments of God.

Know themselves to be but men That is, that they may understand their true character and condition as mortal and sinful “men,” as the word denotes. When men learn to know themselves truly they will fear and obey God.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 9". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.