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The whole tenor of this psalm indicates that it was written at a time when the kingdom of Judah was sorely pressed by heathen enemies. The loud cry for immediate vengeance (Psalms 94:1) comes from the depth and imminence of the public danger, while Psalms 94:3-4; Psalms 94:14-15, show it to have been now already of long standing. The power that oppressed them was impious and cruel, (Psalms 94:5-6; Psalms 94:20-21,) and its language toward Jehovah specially irreverent and blasphemous. Psalms 94:7-11. Against their impiety and oppression the author sustains himself and the people with hope and confidence drawn from a deeper insight into the moral ends of providence, (Psalms 94:12-16,) and the conscious comforts of divine communion and help. Psalms 94:18-19; Psalms 94:22-23. At the time of the last invasion and siege of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans, which lasted eighteen months, (2 Kings 25:1-4,) the land had already suffered two invasions, resulting in two deportations of captives of the flower of the nation; the royal treasury had been robbed, and the temple itself despoiled of its golden furniture; while the people had lain under tribute now for eighteen years. As Psalm xciv seems clearly to belong to this period, and as no mention is made of the destruction of the city or temple, though a long period of outrage and contemptuous impiety on the part of their oppressors is mentioned, it seems not improbable that during these last days of the kingdom the psalm was penned, to provide some antidote to despair when the fatal blow should finally fall. Psalms 79, 74 should follow in order, which see. But the application of this psalm is not to be restricted to the occasion which prompted it. It belongs to the Church in all ages struggling against her enemies.
1. O Lord God, to whom vengeance belongeth The original is very vehement: O God of vengeance, Jehovah; God of vengeance, shine forth. “Vengeance” is in the plural, vengeances, or revenge, and is twice repeated to give intensity. The cry comes from the lowest depths. The “shine forth” is a call for such a signal manifestation of God’s power as shall leave no doubt of its divine origin, and finds its ground idea in the theophanies of the cloud in the wilderness and the shekinah. Exodus 16:6-7; Exodus 16:10; Leviticus 9:23; Numbers 14:10. Compare Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalms 50:2-3; Psalms 80:1-2. The spirit and motive of the prayer are explained in Psalms 94:2-3, and the urgent cause of it in Psalms 94:5-6
2. Reward to the proud Recompense upon the arrogant. The upon specifies the visitation of personal desert. God will avenge his elect and requite innocent blood. See Deuteronomy 32:35
3. How long Twice uttered for emphasis, implying that the delays of justice are mysterious.
5. Break in pieces Crush.
Afflict Literally, Cast down to the ground, bring low. The phrase answers to “break in pieces,” crush, in the preceding member.
6. They slay the widow… stranger… fatherless Proving that the laws of war and of humanity are set aside. Non-combatants innocent helpless ones are murdered. It is a massacre, not a war. Murder without the pretence of trial or discrimination. The classes here distinguished were specially protected by the law of Moses, and by the promise of God. Exodus 22:21-22; Psalms 10:14; Psalms 10:18; Psalms 68:5; Isaiah 3:15
7. They say, The Lord shall not see This, and the corresponding statement, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it, is a reproachful taunt upon the Hebrews, implying that their God has abandoned them to their enemies, and takes no further notice of the treatment they are receiving; equal to “Where is thy God?” in Psalms 42:3; Psalms 42:10. This alone could embolden them to such deeds of violence. How exactly does all this accord with the conduct of the Church’s persecutors in all ages.
8. Understand, ye brutish among the people The address in Psalms 94:8-10 must be considered as applying to those Hebrews who inferred from the present calamity that God had ceased to take judicial notice of their sufferings, and had thus left them to their fate. See Judges 6:13.
Brutish Stupid, like cattle who have no reason, and are governed by selfish instinct and appetite.
Fools Literally, Fat, heavy, phlegmatic, dull of apprehension, with the implied idea of impiety and disrelish for religion. The two words, (as in Psalms 73:22,) denote a sensuous and irreligious person; the hardest to reach with spiritual truth.
9. He that planted the ear, shall he not hear The argument is to those who admit the doctrine that God created man and endowed him with his faculties, which further proves that he is addressing not heathen, but sceptical or backslidden Hebrews. The ground of the argument from the creature to the Creator is, that man was made in the similitude of God; a thoroughly Hebraistic doctrine. Genesis 1:27
10. He that chastiseth the heathen That is, It is admitted by you Hebrews that God chastiseth the nations for their idolatry, and shall he not correct his own people also for the same sin?
11. The Lord knoweth A direct affirmation of what had been put interrogatively in Psalms 94:9-10. He knoweth the thoughts, devices, of men, not only as an intellectual conception, but by way of judicial cognizance, with the intent to punish then.
Vanity Literally, a breath. The idea is, not only that of emptiness, but of wickedness also, as the word often denotes. Deuteronomy 32:21; Proverbs 13:11. God is not an indifferent spectator. He fathoms all the devices of the wicked oppressors, and will requite them.
12. Blessed is the man whom thou chastenest So far from this trouble arising from any indifference on the part of God toward his people, it is his method for bringing them into a higher grade of knowledge and blessedness.
Teachest him out of thy law Which is of infinitely more value than all personal or national wealth, or even national life. “Law,” here, is to be understood in the general sense of inspired revelation.
13. Rest from the days of adversity Exemption and safety from the fatal calamities which shall overtake the wicked.
Until the pit be digged Whilst the pit shall be digged, etc. So the particle usually rendered until is sometimes used, as in 1 Samuel 14:19; Job 1:18. On the sense of the passage, compare Psalms 91:8
14. For the Lord will not cast off his people Faith rises to the sublimest assurance in Psalms 94:14-15
15. Judgment shall return unto righteousness However disordered the administration of the world may appear, a brighter day shall come, when judgment shall resume the course of justice, and the right be vindicated. A prophetic glimpse of the millennium. “I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given to them.” Revelation 20:4
16. Who will rise up for me Who is able to rise up for our help against these evil doers? That is, there is no human power to do it. God alone can do it. The inference, then, is, that our continued existence is itself proof that God is still our helper.
17. My soul had almost dwelt in silence My soul had in a little time soon have inhabited silence; the land of silence, the region of the dead. We had quickly perished had not God been our help. On מעשׂ , little, almost, little time, etc., see Psalms 81:14; Isaiah 26:20
20. Throne of iniquity The miseries which these “evil doers” cause thy people to suffer, are not the doings of a few individuals, nor a few exceptional outbursts of violence, but the settled policy of government, which, by giving its high sanction to deeds of injustice and violence upon the rights of citizenship and of conscience, forgets its divine right of authority, and becomes “the throne of iniquity,” or “the throne of Satan, ( ο θρονος του Σατανα ,) Revelation 2:13. And just so far as government arrays its authority against private right and the divine law, it merits this appellation. See Psalms 94:21
23. He shall bring upon them their own iniquity The iniquity of their own devising. “He shall return that mischief on them which they designed to bring on others, and by making their sins their scourges and certain ruin, manifest his fatherly care over his obedient and faithful servants.” Hammond.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 94". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24