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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible
Psalms 118

 

 

Verse 1

Psalms 118.

An exhortation to praise God for his mercy. The Psalmist by his experience sheweth how good it is to trust in God. Under the type of the Psalmist, the coming of Christ in his kingdom is expressed.

DR. DELANEY is of opinion, that this psalm was composed by David, after his victory over the Philistines, recorded 2 Samuel 23. 1 Chronicles 11 and sung in the tabernacle as an epinicion or hymn of thanksgiving to God for this victory. It begins, O give thanks unto the Lord, &c. and then goes on in such a flow of gratitude to God, such expressions of trust and confidence in him, and glory to him, and adds to all this such descriptions of his enemies, in such a variety of lights and images, as are the peculiar distinction of David's genius. Life of David, book 2: chap. 9. The psalm seems to be written in the form of a dialogue, in which there are several interlocutors. All the first part was sung by David. At Psalms 118:19 he calls upon the Israelites to open the gates, that he might praise God in the sanctuary; and in Psalms 118:20 the Israelites reply. David then seems to take up the strain at the 21st and 22nd verses: the people at the 23rd and 24th; David again the 25th, the priests at the 26th and 27th, and David at the 28th and 29th. This was the last of the psalms which the Jews reckoned into their great הלל hallel, or which they sung after their passover, and was therefore probably the conclusion of that hymn which the blessed man Christ Jesus, with his disciples, sung after his last passover. It is plainly most suitable to the occasion; and the learned Jews, both ancient and modern, confess it to speak of the Messiah; to whom the writers of the New Testament have applied it. See Matthew 21:42. Acts 4:11.


Verse 5

Psalms 118:5. The Lord answered me, and set me in a large place, The Lord answered me with enlargement. Mudge.


Verse 7

Psalms 118:7. The Lord taketh my part, &c.— Or, The Lord is to me among my helpers; therefore shall I look upon them that hate me.


Verses 10-12

Psalms 118:10-12. All nations compassed me about, &c.— It is very plain from these words, that the neighbouring nations had entered into a league against David, and that this psalm was written before he had destroyed them, and consequently in the beginning of his reign. See 2 Samuel 7:1 and Psalms 83. I would just observe to the philological reader, says Dr. Delaney, once for all, that it is familiar with David to couch such images in three words, as would in the hands of Homer be the materials of his noblest, most enlarged, and most dignified descriptions. We have two instances in Psalms 118:12. They, that is, all nations, compassed me about like bees, and they are quenched as the fire of thorns. The reader has here in miniature two of the finest images in Homer; which, if his curiosity demands to be gratified, he will find illustrated and enlarged in the second book of the Iliad. The first of them stands thus transcribed from Mr. Pope's translation, ver. 209, &c.

—————The following host Pour'd forth in millions, darken all the coast. As from some rocky cleft, the shepherd sees Clustering in heaps on heaps, the driving bees: Rolling and blackening, swarms succeeding swarms, With deeper murmurs, and more hoarse alarms: Dusky they spread, a close-embodied croud, And o'er the vale descends the living cloud; So, from the tents and ships, &c.

The next is at ver. 534, &c.

As on some mountain through the lofty grove, The crackling flames ascend, and blaze above; The fires expanding as the winds arise, Shoot their long beams, and kindle half the skies. So from the polish'd arms and brazen shields, A gleamy splendor flash'd along the fields, Not less their number, &c.

The candid reader will observe, that here the idea of an army's resembling a flaming fire, is common both to Homer and David: but the idea of that fire's being quenched when the army was conquered, is peculiar to David. Life of David, book 2: chap. 9.


Verse 13

Psalms 118:13. Thou hast thrust sore at me. This apostrophe is strong; and probably directed to some particular person in the battle, who had put David into great danger.


Verse 17-18

Psalms 118:17-18. I shall not die, &c.— These verses express how near death he thought himself to have been. I shall not die, i.e. as I had feared. God had given him some correction, namely, by endangering his person, and putting him in fear, or possibly permitting him to receive some hurt; but had not suffered him to be slain. Perhaps this danger may be that mentioned, 2 Samuel 15:17. When a thing is intended to be described in a striking manner, it is generally done in the Hebrew by a repetition of the same terms a little varied, or, what comes to the same thing, by being expressed both affirmatively and negatively, as here and in many other places. See Mudge, and Durell's Parallel Prophesies, p. 115.


Verse 19-20

Psalms 118:19-20. Open to me the gates, &c.— If, as we have supposed, this psalm was sung in parts in a public procession to the tabernacle, up mount Sion, the meaning here is, "Now that we are advanced in our procession to the castle of mount Sion, open to me those sacred gates, ye Levites, who are entrusted with being porters there; that I may go through them into the courts of the tabernacle of God, and there praise him for his great favours to me." The Levites or porters are supposed to sing the next verse, in the passage through the gate.


Verse 21-22

Psalms 118:21-22. I will praise thee, &c.— That is, "And now, being entered into the courts of thy tabernacle, O my gracious God, I pay thee my most humble thanks for having so favourably heard the prayers which I put up to thee in my grievous afflictions in Saul's reign, and for having now fully advanced me to the royal dignity." The stone, &c.—that is, "I, whom the great men and rulers of the people rejected, (1 Samuel 26:19.) as the builders of a house do a stone unfit to be employed in it, am now become king over Judah and Israel; and a type of that glorious king, who shall hereafter be in like manner rejected, (Luke 19:14; Luke 20:17.) and then be exalted by God to be Lord of all the world, and the foundation of all men's hopes and happiness." See Acts 4:11-12. The head stone of the corner, means that which joins the walls, and knits the building together; as David had now joined together the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah under his sole government, and as Christ joined together both Jews and Gentiles. The 22nd verse seems to have been a proverbial saying. The two verses may be read thus, The stone, &c. is made the head of the corner: Psalms 118:23. By the Lord is it so made, and it is marvellous, &c. Mudge renders the latter, This is from the Lord; it was impossible in our eyes. "It was the Lord's doing, they said; in their eyes it was a thing beyond all possibility of belief." This is the force of the original.


Verse 27

Psalms 118:27. God is the Lord, &c.— The Lord is God, for he hath shone upon us, Mudge; who observes, that the people say this, perceiving a divine illumination upon them in answer to their prayer; Psalms 118:25. And in consequence of the priest's benediction, Psalms 118:26 they recognized Jehovah for the only God; as the king does in the next verse. Fenwick renders this verse,

God is Jehovah, light from him descends. Come let the sacrifice be bound, The blood be sprinkled on the altar's horns;

For we read of no such custom in the law, as binding the sacrifice to the horns of the altar; and therefore the sense may well be supplied thus, "Bind the sacrifice with cords, and bring it so bound to the horns of the altar, which, after it is killed, are to be sprinkled with the blood of it." Houbigant however, after the Vulgate and LXX, renders it, Keep the feast, with thick boughs at the horns of the altar; which, doubtless, may be justified from the Hebrew. David, says he, a new king, entering Jerusalem, foretels a similar entrance of Christ into Jerusalem; passing over branches of trees strewed in his way, and going into the temple, even to the horns of the altar.

REFLECTIONS.—1st, How great is the goodness of our God!

1. The Psalmist calls on all to give thanks unto him; Israel in general, the ministers of the sanctuary in particular, and those that fear the Lord in every place, Jew or Gentile, must adore him the fountain of all good, and own his mercy everlasting.

2. He gives instances of this mercy in his own case. I called upon the Lord in distress, or out of that strait, when compassed by Saul, or at the court of Achish, or Ziklag: and the Lord answered me, and set me in a large place, enabled me to rise superior to my foes, and brought me to the throne of Israel, in spite of all opposition. Thus did Jesus in the garden and on the cross cry out, and was answered in his resurrection and in his ascension to the right hand of God, to reign till his foes should be made his footstool.

3. He encourages his heart still to trust, and fear not; God espoused his righteous cause, and therefore, though princes and people concurred with bitter hatred to persecute him, he could confidently lean on Jehovah's Almighty arm, and doubted not but to see his desire accomplished in their defeat and disappointment: so much better is it to trust in the Lord, than to put confidence in man, even the greatest. The Son of David in faith thus met the combined hatred of earth and hell, and more than conqueror triumphed over them; and no true believer, dependant on his Almighty strength, need ever fear what the world without, or corruption within, can do against him; he may boldly say, Hebrews 13:6. The Lord is my helper, I will not fear what man can do unto me.

4. The number, violence, and inveteracy of his foes but served to magnify the glory of the victory, which by Divine power he had obtained. All nations around him, Philistines, Ammonites, Moabites, Edomites, Syrians, severally or confederated, attacked him, but fell before his conquering arm, as the fire among thorns, which, though for a moment furiously blazing, is presently extinguished; yea, though one domestic enemy, more implacable and dangerous than the rest, even Saul, sore thrust at him, or Absalom the son of his bosom; yet the Lord helped him, and he was strengthened. The faithful soul is thus compassed with legions of temptations, from sin, the world, and his own heart, and in a more dangerous manner thrust at by the sin that doth most easily beset him; but, cleaving to Jesus in faith, Almighty Grace supports him, and then he can neither faint nor fail.

5. He rejoices in this salvation of God. The Lord is my strength, to uphold me, on him alone my soul trusteth and is holpen, and my song; for ever am I bound to praise him for the power he hath bestowed, and the comforts I have received; and assured I am now of sufficient support, for he is become my salvation, undertakes for me; and when I have thus Jehovah for my God, and live by faith in him, all my interests are secure: therefore the voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous, in mine for the mercies I have received, whilst others rejoice in these mercies conferred upon me, and by their own experience also have the same cause of joy; for every righteous soul, accepted in Jesus, justified through his merit, and renewed by his grace, hath salvation begun; for which, therefore, he is called upon to rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.

6. He ascribes the glory of all to God; it was not his own power or policy, but the right hand of the Lord which saved him, and was exalted in the victory wrought on his behalf. Note; Whatever conquests we win over corruption, or success attends our labours, we must remember that it is not I, but the grace of God that was with me; to him therefore be given the everlasting praise.

7. Past experience emboldens his hope, that he shall not die, but live, notwithstanding the persevering malice of his foes, and declare the works of the Lord, standing a living monument of his power, grace, and faithfulness: yea, thought the Lord hath chastened me sore, with the rod of parental correction; yet he hath not given me over unto death, but I live, and reign triumphant over all my foes. The Son of David lives, and death hath no more dominion over him; though for a moment, under the chastisement of our peace, his soul was put to grief, and the humanity bruised to the dust for our iniquities; yet he is now alive for evermore, to declare the great salvation of God.

2nd. That the Psalmist here is speaking not of himself, but of his more glorious Son, is evident, Matthew 21:42. Acts 4:11-12.

1. The gates of righteousness are required to be thrown open. The gate of heaven, now, through the Redeemer's blood and infinite merit, is opened for himself and all the faithful: he is entered into it to praise the Lord for his great salvation; of which David's return to the temporal sanctuary, in answer to his prayer, after he had been so long an exile, was a type and figure.

2. His humiliation and exaltation are foretold; The stone which the builders refused, is become the head-stone of the corner; David, the outcast, is exalted to Israel's throne; and what is better far, Jesus, though rejected by the Jewish rulers and people as the Messiah, and crucified on a tree, is become the head-stone of the corner; angels, principalities, and powers, are made subject unto him, and he is made head over all things to his church, uniting both Jew and Gentile in one glorious temple, and the everlasting object of his faithful people's praise. This is the Lord's doing, the contrivance of his infinite wisdom and love, and executed by his divine power, for the salvation of the faithful, and it is marvellous in our eyes; angels with admiration behold the undertaking of an incarnate Saviour; and men, for whom this great salvation is wrought, are more peculiarly called upon to wonder and adore. This is the day which the Lord hath made, the glorious day of gospel grace, wherein the sun of righteousness, rising from the grave, shines with brightest beams of light and love on his believing people; and all his saints cannot but say, We will rejoice and be glad in it.

3. Our praises must now be directed to him exalted at the right hand of God, and become the Prince and Saviour of all the faithful. Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord, Hosanna! let the King of Glory live for ever, cry all his loyal subjects: O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity: let our exalted Jesus have the hearts of his people, and the necks of his enemies; be the conqueror of death, hell, and sin, and his kingdom be extended from pole to pole. Or this may also be the prayer of the faithful, in virtue of the exaltation of their King Jesus; who, having all power in heaven and earth, is able to save them to the uttermost, to pardon, strengthen, comfort, sanctify, and glorify them eternally. Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the Lord, ordained of God to be the Mediator, appointed and enabled to execute the glorious work of redemption, and coming in the fulness of time to accomplish it. Thus, Luke 19:38 the people met him with praises; and thus with delight doth the sinner welcome him to his soul, in all the riches of his love and grace, and cry with a transport of affection, "Come in, dear Lord, to me." We have blessed you out of the house of the Lord; we, the ministers of the gospel of Jesus, declare to you, who believe in and praise him, that ye are blessed of him; we congratulate your happy lot, and ceaseless add our prayers to yours, that every day we may abound yet more and more, and receive increasingly, out of his fulness, all blessings in time and in eternity: in answer to this prayer and sacred benediction, the people, acknowledging their infinite obligations, reply, God is the Lord, the faithful, gracious, ever-living, and ever-loving God, which hath shewed us light; and hath shined on the face of his anointed Jesus, and on us through him, with beams of mercy and grace; therefore are we bound to render the returns of gratitude: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar; the bodies of slain beasts indeed are no more needful, now the body of Jesus hath been once offered; but the spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise are the well-pleasing oblation that God now accepts; and the devoted heart, offered up a living sacrifice, shall please him better than the bullock that hath horns and hoofs.

4. David closes with his own professions of his confidence in God, and his thankfulness for such an interest in his favour, exhorting every believing soul to join his grateful praises. Thou art my God, my covenant God, and therefore with heart, lip, and life, I will praise and exalt thee: and most bounden are we to follow his example. O give thanks unto the Lord, so worthy to be praised, for he is good, beyond all we can conceive, for his mercy endureth for ever, from eternity it was, and to eternity will endure; therefore praise the Lord, O my soul!

 


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Bibliography Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 118:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/psalms-118.html. 1801-1803.

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