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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Psalms 71

 

 

Verses 1-24

Psalm 71

In thee, O Lord, do I put my trust:

Let me never be put to confusion.

2 Deliver me in thy righteousness, and cause me to escape:

Incline thine ear unto me, and save me.

3 Be thou my strong habitation, whereunto I may continually resort:

Thou hast given commandment to save me;

For thou art my rock and my fortress.

4 Deliver me, O my God, out of the hand of the wicked,

Out of the hand of the unrighteous and cruel man.

5 For thou art my hope,

O Lord God : thou-art my trust from my youth.

6 By thee have I been holden up from the womb:

Thou art he that took me out of my mother’s bowels:

My praise shall be continually of thee.

7 I am as a wonder unto many;

But thou art my strong refuge.

8 Let my mouth be filled with thy praise

And with thy honor all the day.

9 Cast me not off in the time of old age;

Forsake me not when my strength faileth.

10 For mine enemies speak against me;

And they that lay wait for my soul take counsel together,

11 Saying, God hath forsaken him:

Persecute and take him; for there is none to deliver him.

12 O God, be not far from me:

O my God, make haste for my help.

13 Let them be confounded and consumed that are adversaries to my soul;

Let them be covered with reproach and dishonor that seek my hurt.

14 But I will hope continually,

And will yet praise thee more and more.

15 My mouth shall shew forth thy righteousness

And thy salvation all the day;

For I know not the numbers thereof.

16 I will go in the strength of the Lord God :

I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only.

17 O God, thou hast taught me from my youth:

And hitherto have I declared thy wondrous works.

18 Now also when I am old and grayheaded, O God, forsake me not;

Until I have shewed thy strength unto this generation,

And thy power to every one that is to come.

19 Thy righteousness also, O God, is very high,

Who hast done great things: O God, who is like unto thee!

20 Thou, which hast shewed me great and sore troubles,

Shalt quicken me again,

And shalt bring me up again from the depths of the earth.

21 Thou shalt increase my greatness

And comfort me on every side.

22 I will also praise thee with the psaltery, even thy truth, O my God:

Unto thee will I sing with the harp, O thou Holy One of Israel.

23 My lips shall greatly rejoice when I sing unto thee:

And my soul, which thou hast redeemed.

24 My tongue also shall talk of thy righteousness all the day long:

For they are confounded, for they are brought unto shame, that seek my hurt.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Its Contents and Composition.—The Psalm is written in a clear and easily-understood language, yet with a somewhat uneven rythmical movement, and a loose structure of the strophes. It repeats whole passages from older Psalm, with slight alterations (the beginning is from Psalm 31, the conclusion from Psalm 35, the middle from Psalm 70:2 sq, and likewise some words and expressions from Psalm 40.). An Israelite, whose name is not mentioned, implores deliverance ( Psalm 71:1-3) from the hand of wicked, unscrupulous and violent men ( Psalm 71:4; Psalm 71:10-12). According to Psalm 71:9 he is aged, and according to Psalm 71:21 he seems to occupy an important station in society, and he is able likewise to assert ( Psalm 71:5 sq.) that he has been upheld by Jehovah from his youth, and that he now likewise ( Psalm 71:7 sq.) in connection with failing strength puts his confidence in Him, and will praise Him still continually; for the enemies who consult respecting his ruin ( Psalm 71:10-12) will be put to shame ( Psalm 71:13); but he will praise God ( Psalm 71:14-16) as hitherto on the ground of Divine instruction ( Psalm 71:17), so likewise now and for his posterity ( Psalm 71:18), with a song of praise which already now begins ( Psalm 71:19), which rises to expressions of the most beautiful hope of faith ( Psalm 71:20-21), and concludes with promises of loud and jubilant thanksgiving ( Psalm 71:20-24). The lack of definite historical statements does not justify us any more than the change of the singular into the plural, in supposing that the speaker here is the people under the figure of a man growing old and oppressed by enemies (Rosenmüller, Köster, De Wette, in part Olshausen), or the Church (Luther, Cocc), or the righteous Sufferer (Hengstenberg). A title given by the Sept. ascribes the Psalm to David, the sons of Jonadab and the first captives. This is understood in the sense that the Psalm composed by David was afterwards sung especially by the exiles and by the Rechabites who were praised by the prophet, Jeremiah 35:14 sq, over against the citizens of Jerusalem, because of their obedience to the command of their ancestor Jonadab, to continue in their nomad life. Although this last statement may be referred to tradition, yet it affords only a weak support for the hypothesis of the composition of the Psalm by the prophet Jeremiah (Hitzig, Delitzsch). Yet it cannot be denied that the contents and style afford many reasons in favor of that hypothesis. Many linguistic phenomena point to a later period of composition.[FN2]

Str. I. [This strophe is a reminiscence, with slight changes, of the first strophe of Psalm 31.—C. A. B.]—A rock of habitation.—In the parallel passage, rock of defence is used. But it is unnecessary and inadmissible on this account to change מָעוֹן (comp. Psalm 90:1; Psalm 91:9) into מַעוֹז, although it is very natural and is supported by many Codd. and the Chald. For it involves likewise an alteration of the words which follow. Moreover the supposition that this verse is a confused ruin of Psalm 31:3 (Hupfeld), or a revival of the faded and defaced original text of the Septuagint (Hitzig), denies the author his peculiarities without any justification. For there are manifestly some such in other passages, showing his intention, especially since גוֹזִי ( Psalm 71:6 b.) is very appropriately used instead of גֹחִי ( Psalm 22:9).

[Str. II. Psalm 71:4-6. This strophe was certainly composed with Psalm 22:8-10 in mind, although there is no slavish copying, for there are many touchingly beautiful variations, e.g, “On Thee was I cast from the womb” ( Psalm 22:10), is here expressed by the correlative idea: Upon Thee was I sustained from the womb;[FN3] and the thought: “Thou art He that took me out of the womb,” ( Psalm 22:9) passes over into that of: “Thou art my Preserver[FN4] from my mother’sbowels, all being touching variations of the idea of faith and hope in a faithful God of Providence experienced from youth and from birth till the present advanced age, and reaching out into a sure future.—C. A. B.]

Str. III. Psalm 71:7. I have become as a sign unto many.—This may be meant in the bad sense (Kimchi and most interpreters), so that men are to be regarded as looking upon the sufferer on account of his misfortune as one marked by God’s justice and made a sign of. But the many resemblances with Psalm 11make it more probable that it is to be taken in the good sense, that Isaiah, a sign of the grace and protection of God (Aben Ezra, et al.) Then we need not supply in the second member the adversative particle.—[My strong refuge.—The construction of מַחֲסִי עז is disputed. It is generally regarded that this is an example where poetic usage allows the principal noun to take the suffix, instead of the subordinate noun as usual (vide Ewald, § 291 b.), but Moll and Perowne regard the nouns as in apposition, and Moll translates at once: my refuge, a strong one.—C. A. B.]

[Str. IV. Psalm 71:9-11. Compare with this Psalm 41:3-8.—In the time of old age.—The faithfulness of God to him in youth and maturity gives him courage to supplicate God in the time of old age and in sickness. The circumstances of Psalm 41seem to be renewed here, or perhaps they are the same.[FN5]—C. A. B.]

[Str. V. Psalm 71:12-13.—These verses contain familiar expressions of David, comp. Psalm 22:11; Psalm 35:4; Psalm 35:26; Psalm 38:21-22; Psalm 40:13-14.—C. A. B.]

Str. VI. Psalm 71:15. For I know no numbers (thereof).—It is clear from Psalm 40:5 what is meant here, and that it is in relation to the preceding; all day long. It would be in contrast to “my mouth” if the word could only mean: art of writing (Böttcher); or if we could translate with the Vulgate: quoniam non cognovi literaturam. The Psalt. Romanum reads instead of the last word negotiationes, as a translation of the πραγματείας of the Septuagint, which word is used by Polybius as the title of his history. It is unnecessary to derive from the Syriac the meaning of “limits” (Ewald).

[ Psalm 71:16. I will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord Jehovah.—Alexander: This phrase might also be translated: I will enter into the mighty deeds, etc., as we speak of entering into the particulars of a subject. But this is rather an English than a Hebrew idiom. The common version: I will go in the strength of the Lord God, is at variance with the usage both of the verb and noun, as the former does not mean to go absolutely, but either to enter or to come to a particular place, expressed or understood. The ellipsis here may be supplied from Psalm 5:7 and Psalm 64:13, in both which places the same verb denotes the act of coming to God’s house for the purpose of solemn praise, and in the second passage cited is followed by the same preposition, I will come into Thy house with burnt-offerings, i.e, I will bring them thither. This sense agrees well with the vow to praise God in the two preceding verses, and with the promise of commemoration in the other clause of the verse. See above on Psalm 20:7. It also enables us to give the noun its usual sense of God’s exploits or mighty deeds, see Psalm 106:2, and Deuteronomy 3:24.”—C. A. B.]

[Str. VII. Psalm 71:17-18. Compare Psalm 22:22-31, which has many features of resemblance to this strophe. The motive for his deliverance is in both cases that he may praise God to his brethren and posterity even to the ends of the earth.—Till I declare Thine arm to (the next) generation, to all that shall come Thy might.—The arm of the Lord is the symbol of His executive power and works, comp. Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 53:1; Ezekiel 4:7. The generation that has come up in the place of his own generation which is passing away, first comes before his mind, and then his vision deepens and widens, taking in all the coming generations to whom he would publish the mighty deeds of God.—C. A. B.]

Str. VIII. Psalm 71:19. And Thy righteousness, O God, (reaches) even to the height, that Isaiah, the height of heaven, as the highest plane of creation, Psalm 36:5; Psalm 57:10.—Thou who hast done great things, O God, who is like unto Thee?—[The punctuation of the A. V. injures the sense. The middle clause belongs with the last clause, and not with the first, forming only two parallel members of the strophe, as Moll has it. Comp. Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 3:24; 1 Samuel 7:22.—C. A. B.]

Psalm 71:20. [Thou wilt revive us again.—Perowne: “The sudden transition to the plural here seems to have given offence to the Masoretes, who consequently change it in the K’ri to the singular. But these fluctuations between singular and plural are not unusual in the Psalm, and there is no reason why, in the recital of God’s dealings, the Psalmist should not speak of them with reference to the nation at large, as well as to himself in particular.”—C. A. B.]—The abysses of the earth are contrasted with the height of heaven. It is unnecessary to think of those which are full of water (Gesenius, Olshausen). It is true תְהוֹם means the abysmal depths of the sea, but as roaring and threatening ruin, Psalm 36:6, hence related in idea to the abyss, Luke 8:31; Revelation 9:1; Revelation 9:11.

Psalm 71:21. Thou wilt increase my greatness, and turn Thyself to comfort me.—Septuagint has instead of “my greatness,” Thy righteousness. The Hebrew word in question is elsewhere used of the greatness of God, and the great deeds in which this is shown. In the last sense Psalm 145:6; 2 Samuel 7:21; 2 Samuel 7:23. To accept this sense here and express it in the translation: “Thy greatness “ (Hengstenberg), is as inadmissible as it is unnecessary. For this word is sometimes used of the royal majesty as the reflection of the Divine ( Esther 1:4), and from this could be transferred to exalted persons in general ( Psalm 6:3; Psalm 10:2). That the poet speaks of the increase of his own greatness=highness, can only be objectionable (Hupfeld) when we regard a subordinate compiler as the author. This passage, however, itself points to a man of prominent historical importance, whose highness of office or position in life was bestowed upon him by God. It is mere arbitrariness to change the reading into a word with the meaning: Thy payment (Hitzig).

Str. IX. Psalm 71:22. The designation of God as the Holy One of Israel is found likewise in Psalm 78:41; Psalm 89:18; then in Isaiah 30 times; then in Habakkuk 1:12, and in Jeremiah 50:29; Jeremiah 51:6. The original passage may perhaps be found in Psalm 22:3.

[In Psalm 71:23-24 the Psalmist promises to praise God with lips and tongue, with soul and voice and musical instruments. All combine in the expression of his holy gratitude.—C. A. B.]

DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL

1. So long as we live on earth, our sufferings have no end; but God’s righteousness, power and goodness likewise never cease to declare themselves. Only let our faith never cease to rely alone on this strong foundation of salvation, and let it drive us thither with prayer, praise and thanksgiving! For we will then confess in old age what we have learned in youth, and sing in evil days as well as good: I will not leave God, for God does not leave me.

2. The sufferings which God sends upon us are harder to bear when the scorn of wicked enemies is added to the feeling of our vanishing strength and our weakness. Yet the hope of the ungodly is lost. They reckon upon the ruin of the pious; but it is based upon a mere delusion, namely, the foolish opinion that the sufferings of the pious are an evidence that they are forsaken by God, and a sign that they are given up; therefore their reckoning is false. The believing know this and act accordingly.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

Every new exhibition of Divine benefits gives the pious new occasion for thankful praise of God.—Faith helps experience; experience works hope; hope does not allow us to be ashamed.—Blessed are those who are accompanied and guided through life by the experience of Divine help.—God has not changed; hast thou remained the same?—In what sense may we wish that our age should be as our youth?—Confidence in prayer; (1) upon what it may base itself; (2) whither it is to be directed; (3) whence it must flow.—We must not only begin with faith, but likewise continue to the end.—The pious show in the school of suffering what they have previously learned of God.

Calvin: We must descend even unto death, that God may appear as our Redeemer. For since we are born without feeling and understanding, the first beginnings of our life do not show clearly enough their author. But when God comes to our help in extremities, the restoration itself is a glorious mirror of His grace.

Starke: Trust in God is not to be regarded as meritorious, but as the means or arrangement whereby we may obtain grace.—A good conscience and a righteous cause make our prayer powerful and glad, so that we can appeal to God’s righteousness.—Faith gives the heart wings with which to soar to God in prayer. But if these are to be ready to move, the heart must firmly establish itself on God’s promises in His word.—How few are those who in a strict self-examination can boast of their walk in youth as irreproachable!—Faith and prayer are the two strongest crutches which old people can use.—We are great before God through the cross. That is a strange language for the cross-dreading flesh, but agreeable to the spirit. The more the cross, the more the increase of grace.—The heart and the tongue must constantly be together in worshipping God.

Renschel: Christians learn (1) from day to day: (2) their best school-teacher is God Himself; (3) they begin early, namely, from the cradle; (4) they are not perfect very soon, but must study until they are gray; (5) they finally spread abroad likewise what good things they have learned.—Arndt: Patience is a great spiritual strength and finally conquers, the praise of God, however, is the victory and the power of God against our enemies. Thus Jehoshaphat beat his enemies with a song of praise.—Tholuck: If we find little to praise, what other reason is there than that we have no eyes for daily wonders?—Taube: It is in the very nature of the faithfulness of God that He should not let His work stop, and in His great mercy that He should gladly accept the miserable and helpless. Guenther: The earlier the victory is gained, the more beautiful the prospects of a happy old age.

[Matt. Henry: If we are shy of dealing with God, it is a sign we do not trust Him.—All are not forsaken of God who think so themselves, or whom others think to be so.—The longer we live, the more expert we should grow in praising God and the more we should abound in it.—Barnes: A man can lay up nothing better for the infirmities of old age than the favor of God sought by earnest prayer in the days of his youth and his maturer years.—Spurgeon: Jehovah deserves our confidence; let Him have it all.—Mercy’s gates stand wide open, and shall do Song of Solomon, till, at the last, the Master of the house has risen up and shut to the door.—God’s bread is always in our mouths; so should His praise be.—Old age robs us of personal beauty, and deprives of strength for active service; but it does not lower us in the love and favor of God.—Nearness to God is our conscious security. A child in the dark is comforted by grasping its father’s hand.—How gloriously conspicuous is righteousness in the Divine plan of redemption ! It should be the theme of constant discourse.—A traveller among the high Alps often feels overwhelmed with awe amid their amazing sub-limities; much more is this the case when we survey the heights and depths of the mercy and holiness of the Lord.—C. A. B.]

Footnotes:

FN#2 - There are no sufficient reasons agninst the Davidic composition of this Psalm at the close of his life. It is as natural to suppose that the aged David should repeat himself in familiar phrases of the Psalm of his younger days, as that Jeremiah or any other poet of later times should use the words and phrases of David. Vide remarks on the previous Psalm.—C. A. B.]

FN#3 - Perowne: ‘This is an expression wonderfully descriptive of what faith is and of what God is to those who trust in Him. lie is a father who bears them in His arms and carries them in His bosom; they are as children who lean all their weight upon Him, and find their sweetest rest in His supporting hand. This is the very idea of faith, according to its Hebrew signification. When it is said in Genesis 15:6 that Abraham believed God,’ it means literally,’ he leaned upon God’ (though the root there is different, it is the same which in the Kal conjugation means to bear or carry a child. Numbers 11:12, and in Isaiah 49:23 is used of a nursing father. B—C. A. B.]

FN#4 - This word, גוֹזִי, is greatly disputed. Some, after the Chald. and the Rabbins, derive it from גוֹז=to Pass over and causative, to cause to pass through or over, to bring forth, thus like גֹחִי, of Psalm 22:9; Delitzsch gets a similar meaning from the radical meaning of גַזַה=to cut, divide, and renders: mein Entbinder (he who separatest me or loosest me from the womb). Most interpreters, however, derive it from גזה, in the other sense of recompense, distribute, and translate: my Provider, Protector, Benefactor (Schult, Rosenm, Gesen, Ewald, Hupf, Riehm, Moll, Perowne, et al.) The latter interpretation is especially favored by the parallelism; and the prep. has reference rather to time from which than to the place of origin.—C. A. B.]

FN#5 - Wordsworth: “David in his old age was tried by great and sore troubles, by debility of body ( 1 Kings 1:1-4), and by the rebellion of Adonijah, his son usurping his throne and endeavoring to supplant Solomon ( 1 Kings 1:5-10), and by the treachery of Abiathar and Joab ( 1 Kings 1:18-19). But God granted his prayer, and did not cast him off in his old age, but raised him up for a time by supernatural power from the bed of sickness, and enabled him to leave his sick chamber and to go forth in the strength of the Lord God, to the public assembly which he had convened, of the nobles and people of Israel, and to present to them his son and successor, Song of Solomon, and to exhibit to them the pattern of the Temple, for which he had made vast preparations. See 1 Chronicles28, 29”—C. A. B.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 71:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/psalms-71.html. 1857-84.

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