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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries
Psalms 9

 

 

Verses 1-20

EXPOSITION

This psalm, which, like the six preceding it, is declared by the title to be "a Psalm of David," is a song of thanksgiving for the defeat of some foreign enemy. It is the first of what are called "the alphabetic psalms;" but the law of alphabetic order is applied in it somewhat loosely and irregularly. All the four lines of the first stanza commence with aleph; but after this it is only the first line of each stanza that observes the law. And even this amount of observance is neglected in the last stanza. The poem is one of the most regular in its structure of all the psalms, consisting as it does of ten equal strophes of four lines each. The words in the title, "upon Muth-labben," have been variously explained; but no explanation hitherto given is satisfactory.

Psalms 9:1

I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; rather, I will give thanks (Kay, Cheyne, Revised Version). The thanks are special for a great deliverance—a deliverance from some heathen enemy (Psalms 9:5, Psalms 9:15), who has been signally defeated and almost exterminated (Psalms 9:5, Psalms 9:6). It has been conjectured that the subjugation of Ammon (2 Samuel 12:26-31) is the occasion referred to ('Speaker's Commentary'); but the expectation of further attack (Psalms 9:17-20) scarcely suits this period, when David's wars were well-nigh over. Perhaps the earlier victory over Ammon and Syria (2 Samuel 10:6-14), which was followed by the renewed invasion of the same nations in conjunction with "the Syrians beyond the river" (2 Samuel 10:16), is more likely to have drawn forth the composition. I will show forth all thy marvellous works; rather, I will tell forth, or I will recount all thy wondrous deeds. Not necessarily miracles, but any strange and unexpected deliverances, such as the recent one (comp. Psalms 40:5; Psalms 78:4).

Psalms 9:2

I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy Name (see the comment on Psalms 8:9). O thou most High (comp. Psalms 7:17; and see also Genesis 14:18, Genesis 14:19, Genesis 14:22). Ellen ( עֶלְיוֹן) was a recognized name of God among the Phoenicians.

Psalms 9:3

When mine enemies are turned back; or, because mine enemies are turned back ('Speaker's Commentary'); i.e. made to retreat, repulsed, driven before me in hasty flight. They shall fall and perish at thy presence; or, they stumble and perish, etc. The psalmist represents the enemy, poetically, "as if they had been thrown to the ground by the glance of God's fiery countenance" (Hengstenberg).

Psalms 9:4

For thou hast maintained my right and my cause. David uniformly ascribes his military successes, not to his own ability, or even to the valour of his soldiers, but to God's favour. God's favour, which is secured by the justice of his cause, gives him victory after victory. Thou surest in the throne judging right. While the late battle raged, God sat upon his heavenly throne, administering justice, awarding defeat and death to the wrong-doers who had wantonly attacked his people, giving victory and glory and honour to those who stood on their defence against the aggressors.

Psalms 9:5

Thou hast rebuked the heathen; rather, thou didst rebuke; LXX; ἐπετίμησας: i.e. on the recent occasion. When God would rebuke, be punishes; when he punishes, by so doing he rebukes. Thou hast destroyed the wicked; rather, thou didst destroy. Thou hast put out their name for ever and ever. If taken literally, this should mean extermination, and so some explain (Hengstenberg, Kay, 'Speaker's Commentary'); but some allowance must be made for the use of hyperbole by a poet. None of the nations with which David contended suffered extinction or extermination.

Psalms 9:6

O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end. It is better to translate, with the Revised Version, The enemy are come to an end; they are desolate for ever—a continuance of the hyperbole already noticed in the preceding verse. And thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them; rather, and as for the cities thou hast destroyed, their very memory has perished. This could only be an anticipation. It was fulfilled in the complete disappearance from history of the names of Zoba, Beth-rehob, and Tob, after the victory described in 2 Samuel 10:13, 2 Samuel 10:14.

Psalms 9:7

But the Lord shall endure for ever; rather, but the Lord is seated (i.e. upon his throne)for ever. Cities and nations perish, but Jehovah remains a King for evermore. While all is change and disturbance upon earth, the unchanged and unchangeable Eternal One continues constantly seated, in serene majesty, in heaven. He hath prepared (or rather, established) his throne for judgment (compare the second clause of per. 4).

Psalms 9:8

And he shall judge the world. The "he" is emphatic—he himself, and no other. From his throne of judgment he shall judge, not Israel's enemies only, whom he has just judged (Psalms 9:3-6), but the whole world. In righteousness; i.e. by a strict law of justice, rewarding to all men "after their deserving." He shall minister judgment to the people (rather, the peoples; i.e. all the people of all the earth) in uprightness; literally, in uprightnesses—a plural of perfection.

Psalms 9:9

The Lord also will be a Refuge for the oppressed. Misgab, translated "refuge," is literally "a hill-fort" (comp. Psalms 144:2, where it is rendered "high tower"). David's use of the metaphor is reasonably ascribed to his having "often experienced safety in such places, when fleeing from Saul" (Hengstenberg; see 1 Samuel 23:14). A refuge in times of trouble; literally, in times in trouble; i.e. "in times that are steeped in trouble" (Kay).

Psalms 9:10

And they that know thy Name will put their trust in thee. "To know the Name of God is to know him according to his historical manifestation; when one hears him named, to call to remembrance all that he has done. His name is the focus in which all the rays of his actions meet" (Hengstenberg). All who "know God's Name" in this sense will be sure to "put their trust in him," since his historical manifestation shows that he is thoroughly to he depended on. For thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. Never in the past, so far as David knew, had God forsaken those who faithfully clung to him. They might be tried, like Job; they might be "hunted upon the mountains," like David himself; they might even have the sense of being forsaken (Psalms 22:1); but they were not forsaken nevertheless. God "forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever" (Psalms 37:28).

Psalms 9:11

Sing praises to the Lord. Having praised God himself (Psalms 9:1, Psalms 9:2), and declared the grounds upon which his praises rest (Psalms 9:3-10), David now calls upon all faithful Israelites to join him in his song of thanksgiving. "Sing praises unto the Lord," he says, which dwelleth in Zion. Who is enthroned, i.e; on the mercy-seat between the cherubim in the tabernacle, now set up upon Mount Zion (2 Samuel 6:1-17). The date of the psalm is thus to some extent limited, since it must have been composed subsequently to the transfer of the ark to Jerusalem. Declare among the people his doings. In the original "among the peoples" ( עַמִּים); i.e. not the people of Israel only, but all the surrounding nations. David is possessed with the conviction that the revelation of God made to Israel is not to be confined to them, but through them to be communicated to "all the ends of the earth"—to the heathen at large, to all nations (comp. Psalms 18:49; Psalms 66:4; Psalms 72:11, Psalms 72:19, etc.).

Psalms 9:12

When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them; rather, for he that maketh inquisition for blood (see Genesis 9:5) remembereth them. God, i.e; the Requirer of blood (Kay), remembers, when he makes his inquisition, those who are oppressed (per. 9), and who seek him (Psalms 9:10). He forgetteth not the cry of the humble; or, the afflicted (Kay, Cheyne). He comes to the aid of such persons, and avenges them on their enemies.

Psalms 9:13

Have mercy upon me, O Lord! The consideration of God's mercies in the past, and especially in the recent deliverance, leads the psalmist to implore a continuance of his mercies in the future. He is not yet free from troubles. There are still enemies who afflict and threaten him—"heathen" who seek to "prevail" against him (Psalms 9:19, Psalms 9:20), and perhaps already domestic enemies, especially the "sons of Zeruiah," causing him anxiety. Consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me; literally, my trouble (or, my affliction) from my haters. Psalms 9:17, Psalms 9:19, Psalms 9:20 show that the heathen are especially intended (see 2 Samuel 10:15-19). Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death; i.e. "Thou that continually (or, habitually) art my Support in the extremity of peril," "lifting me up" even from the very "gates of death." (For other mentions of "the gates of death," see Job 38:17; Psalms 107:18.) Classical writers speak of "the gates of darkness" ( σκότου πύλας) in almost the same sense (Eurip; 'Hec.,' 1. 1).

Psalms 9:14

That I may show forth all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion. The "daughter of Zion" is, of course, Jerusalem. Compare "daughter of Babylon" (Psalms 137:8; Isaiah 47:1; Jeremiah 1:1-19 :42; Zechariah 2:7), "daughter of the Chaldeans" (Isaiah 47:1, Isaiah 47:5), "daughter of Edom" (Lamentations 4:21, Lamentations 4:22), "daughter of Gallim" (Isaiah 10:30). Hengstenberg is probably right in understanding "in the gates" as "within the gates," since, as he observes, "God's praise is not to be celebrated in the gates, amid the throng of worldly business, but in the temple." The references in the ' Speaker's Commentary' do not bear out the statement there made, that "public mournings and public thanksgivings were proclaimed in the gates." I will rejoice in thy salvation; or, that I may rejoice (Kay).

Psalms 9:15

The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made. It is uncertain whether the writer here reverts to the judgment already executed (Psalms 9:3-6), or with the eye of faith sees as past the judgment which he confidently anticipates (Psalms 9:19, Psalms 9:20). Whichever he intends, there can be no doubt that he means it to be understood that the stratagems of the enemy brought about (or would bring about) their downfall. In the net which they hid is their own foot taken. A second metaphor, expressing the same idea as the preceding (comp. Psalms 7:15, Psalms 7:16; Psalms 10:2; Psalms 35:8; Psalms 141:10).

Psalms 9:16

The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth; rather, the Lord hath made himself known; he executeth judgment (see the Revised Version; and comp. Ezekiel 20:9). The two clauses are grammatically distinct, though no doubt closely connected in their meaning. God makes himself known—manifests his character, by the judgments which he executes, shows himself just, perhaps severe, certainly One who "will not at all acquit the wicked" (Nahum 1:3). The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Some translate, "he snareth the wicked," or, "by snaring the wicked"—the special way in which God manifests himself. Higgaion. This word is found in three other places only, viz. Psalms 19:14; Psalms 92:3; and Lamentations 3:61. In the first it is translated "meditation," and has clearly that meaning; in the second it is supposed to mean "a gentle strain:" in the third it seems best rendered by "musing" or "reflection." Here it stands by itself, as a sort of rubrical direction, like the following word, "Selah." Some suppose it a direction to the choir to play a gentle strain of instrumental music as an interlude; others regard it as enjoining upon the congregation a space of quiet "meditation". Selah (see the comment on Psalms 3:2).

Psalms 9:17

The wicked shall be tamed into hell; literally, shall be turned backwards to Sheol, or Hades; i.e. shall be removed from earth to the place of departed spirits. There is no direct threat of retribution or punishment, beyond the poena damni, or loss of all that is pleasing and delightful in this life. And all the nations that forget God; rather, even all the people (Kay). "The wicked" and "the people that forget God" are identical.

Psalms 9:18

For the needy shall not alway be forgotten. The peer and needy, the oppressed and down-trodden (Psalms 9:9, Psalms 9:12), seem for a time to be forgotten of God; but even this seeming oblivion comes to an end when judgment fails on the oppressors (Psalms 9:17). The expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever. "The expectation of the poor" is deliverance. It shall not "perish," or be disappointed, "for ever," i.e. always. There shall be a time when their expectation shall have its accomplishment.

Psalms 9:19

Arise, O Lord (comp. Psalms 7:6, and the comment ad loc.). Let not man prevail; or, let not weak man prevail. The word used for "man," enosh, carries with it the idea of weakness. That "weak man" should prevail over God is preposterous. Let the heathen be judged in thy sight. If judged, then, as being wicked, condemned; if condemned, then punished—defeated, ruined, brought to nought (see Psalms 9:5)

Psalms 9:20

Put them in fear, O Lord; literally, set fear to them; i.e. "make them afraid," either by striking a panic terror into them, as into the Syrians when they had brought Samaria to the last gasp (2 Kings 7:6, 2 Kings 7:7), or by causing them calmly to review the situation, and to see how dangerous it was to assail God's people (2 Kings 6:23). That the nations may know themselves to be but men. May recognize, i.e; their weakness; may remember that they are enosh—mere weak, frail, sickly, perishing mortals. Selah. Here this word occurs for the second time at the end of a psalm (see above, Psalms 3:8)—a position which militates against the idea of its signifying "a pause," since there must always have been a pause at the end of every psalm.

HOMILETICS

Psalms 9:10

An appeal to experience, and its record.

"They that know thy Name," etc. Truth is given us in Scripture, not as bare doctrine, but clothed in living experience; not as an anatomical preparation for intellect to dissect and anatomize, but as food to nourish; nay, more—as a friend to talk with us. For the best reason—we are not merely to hold it intellectually, but to live by it. Hence the whole Bible, from end to end, is full of human life and history. But, above all, the Book of Psalms is a textbook and encyclopaedia of spiritual experience. The text is an appeal to experience, and a record of its testimony,

I. WHO ARE THEY WHOSE EXPERIENCE IS APPEALED TO? Those who know God's Name. Names are more than bare signs of thought; they are instruments of thought; storehouses and treasuries of knowledge; vessels from which it can be poured; current coin, in which it passes from mind to mind. More than this. They are treasuries of feeling; talismans to call it forth; ripe seeds from which its bloom and fragrance spring to new life. Our power of naming is the measure of our knowledge. Therefore in Scripture, the Name of God stands for all that we can know of him. It includes, not only knowledge of the intellect, but of the heart (comp. John 17:3, John 17:6 with 1 John 4:8). "Canst thou by searching," etc.? (Job 11:7, Job 11:8). Surely not. This is a depth we cannot fathom; a breadth and height we cannot measure. But to say this is no concession to the mental indolence of agnosticism. Do not let us underrate what we can and do know of God.

1. We know him as the Source and Foundation of all being but his own. Therefore eternal and infinite. It is mere idle ring of verbal logic to say that "from a finite universe you cannot prove an infinite Creator." For, though the universe is (we are compelled to think) in some sense finite, yet it is infinite in possibility, and in demand on knowledge, wisdom, power, love.

2. We know him as the Father of our spirits, in whom we live and have our being. As a Personal Being; i.e. one to whom we can speak, and who speaks to us. We can say "Thou" to him, and he says "Thou" to each of us.

3. We know his character. Perfect righteousness, truth, holiness, love; and his will, as revealed in his Word.

4. We know him as "the God and -Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (John 1:18). Who, then, are "they that know God's Name"? Those to whom all these truths are not words, but realities; who study his will, and obey it; study his Word, and believe it; live in fellowship with God by prayer and praise; know the power of his love (1 John 4:16, 1 John 4:19); and see his glory in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:6). In one word, "the Name" of God is matter of revelation; but the knowledge of his Name is matter of experience.

II. WHAT IS THE TESTIMONY OF THEIR EXPERIENCE? This—that God may safely be trusted—is infinitely worthy of unswerving absolute trust. Those who know him best trust him most; and those who have trusted him most bear witness to his faithfulness. We may say that the truth of the whole Bible is involved in the truth of this verse. For what is the Bible from end to end, but an invitation to trust God—with the reasons for so doing? A revelation, not so much to intellect as to heart and conscience. With this it is very largely a record of the personal experience of those who have trusted (and also of those who have distrusted) God (Psalms 34:6). And, withal, it is a challenge to future experience. It invites practical personal test. "Taste and see" (Psalms 34:8). If the answer were that, practically, faith in God is found to be a failure, then the Bible would have missed its mark. Then Christianity must be confessed a beautiful illusion. But the facts are the other way. Go to the Christian—learned or simple, poor or prosperous—who, through a busy life, has made the experiment of trusting God, and bringing everything to the Lord Jesus in prayer. Ask him, "Has it answered?" There is no doubt what his reply will be. If the evidence for the truth of Christianity were to be compressed into one word, that word is "experience.'' The contemptuous disregard of this immense mass of human experience and testimony by unbelievers is neither rational nor just

Psalms 9:19, Psalms 9:20

An appeal to God.

"Arise, O Lord," etc. The mysteries of life are no modern discovery. They perplexed and oppressed the souls of ancient saints, often well-nigh to the overthrow of faith. They are aggravated and emphasized by the fact, which we perhaps fail sufficiently to grasp, that Israel stood alone among nations as the witness to the unity, holiness, and truth of God. The host of surrounding peoples, some of them at the very summit of worldly greatness, worshipped "gods many and lords many." Hence Israel's enemies could not but be regarded as God's enemies; Israel's cause as God's cause.

I. AN APPEAL TO GOD AS THE LORD OF THE WHOLE WORLD, to manifest his sovereignty. The word for "man" expresses mortal weakness. Q.d.: "Let not weak mortals fancy themselves strong enough, or seem to others strong enough, to defy thy rule, break thy Law, disregard thy displeasure." Psalms 9:8 shows that the world of mankind is in view, not merely Israel. The broad universal spirit of the Old Testament Scriptures is among the notes of inspiration. In the sacred enclosure of Israel the psalmist saw men sinning against light; in the great outlying world of heathendom he saw them sinning without the light of revelation (Romans 2:12-14). But in all, the root-mischief is the same—human self-will. If all men, instead of pleasing themselves, set themselves to do God's will, a change would pass over all life, private and public, like the breaking forth of spring out of winter. Faith does not dictate to God how or when men are to be brought to their right senses; to see that God is God, and men "but men"—weak, frail, ignorant, sinful. But faith longs and pleads that it be done.

II. THERE ARE TIMES AND CIRCUMSTANCES which give to this appeal special urgency. In ancient Israel, when idolatry threatened to suppress true religion; or heathen invaders threatened the national existence. For the Christians of the first three centuries, in the deadly persecutions of the Roman emperors. For lovers of God's pure Word and of freedom, during the dark years before the Reformation, in the gigantic growth of superstition, corruption, and ecclesiastical tyranny. The blood of Albigenses, Lollards, Huguenots, and a great army of martyrs beside, seemed to cry for vengeance (Revelation 6:10). In our own time the frightful prevalence of crime and vice, and of squalid misery in the midst of wasteful luxury; the murderous war-preparations of Christian nations; the slow progress of the gospel where it is matched against the mighty forces of heathenism, Buddhism, Mohammedanism; and the bold and subtle forms of atheism or unbelief that fill the very atmosphere of our age;—all these awaken in our hearts this earnest, passionate longing; try our faith with this deep perplexity (Isaiah 64:1). Multitudes of earnest Christians find no comfort but in the belief that the second coming of the Lord is near at hand. They echo St. John's "come quickly" (Revelation 22:20).

III. THE GOSPEL SHEDS A LIGHT ON THIS MYSTERY, which prophets and kings of old longed for, but could not see (see 2 Peter 3:9; 1 Timothy 2:3). God could crush and stamp out sin, and destroy sinners quickly enough, by his almighty power. But his amazing purpose has been and is to "overcome evil with good;" subdue unbelief and rebellion, not by vengeance, but love. Mercy rejoices against judgment. The cross—grace and truth by Jesus Christ-exerts a power impossible before. The prophets show the possibility of the penitent being pardoned (Isaiah 1:18; Ezekiel 33:11, etc.). Yet Manasseh's conversion is almost a solitary instance. The regeneration of a nation—as of nations of cannibal savages in our own day by the preaching of the gospel—was a thing impossible. Hence inspired psalmists saw no alternative but either the prosperity of the wicked or their destruction (Luke 9:54 56; Luke 24:46, Luke 24:47). But power will not always sleep, nor judgment tarry (2 Peter 3:7, 2 Peter 3:10; 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 2 Thessalonians 1:9).

HOMILIES BY C. CLEMANCE

Psalms 9:1-20

Praise for the destroyer's destruction.

The title of this psalm is obscure. Its archaisms cannot now be satisfactorily explained. And even a reference to the most learned expositors may possibly only increase the confusion. £ The title, indeed, is very suggestive. It reads, "Upon the death of Labben." Walford regards "Muth-labben" as the name of a musical instrument. For this we can find no warrant. The word muth, which is equivalent to "death," seems to put us on a line of thought which is, at any rate, in harmony with the entire psalm. If we grant (as appears from the whole tenor of the verses) that the reference is to the death of some enemy, by whose plots and snares the people of God were imperilled, the whole song reads naturally enough. Whether we read "Labben" as a proper name, or read it "of the Son," or regard the psalm as referring to the death of Goliath of Gath, is of no consequence as regards its general meaning or spiritual significance. Delitzsch, indeed, says, "This psalm is a thoroughly national song of thanksgiving for victory by David, belonging to the time when Jahve was already enthroned on Zion (Psalms 9:14), and therefore to the time after the ark was brought home." He asks," Was it composed after the triumphant extermination of the Syro-Ammonitish War?" Hengstenberg remarks, "The relation which David had in view when he composed this psalm for public use was that of the Church of God to its external enemies." Note: It is a fitting occasion for sanctuary-song when God's people are delivered from threatening perils. Many English hearts would send up such a shout of praise as we find here, over England's deliverance from the Spanish Armada. The joy, however, was not in its destruction, but in Britain's safety. For a pulpit exposition of the psalm, we have five lines of thought presented to us.

I. WE HAVE HERE SHOWN US IN WHAT PERIL GOD'S PEOPLE HAD BEEN PLACED. Although we cannot be sure to what specific events this psalm refers, yet several phrases therein show us the kind of peril to which the writer alludes, and thus put both expositor and preacher on the line for usefully and helpfully dealing therewith on any special occasion when unusual perils beset the Church of God. E.g.:

1. Enemies (Psalms 9:3).

2. Oppression (Psalms 9:12).

3. Murder (Psalms 9:12).

4. Deceit (Psalms 9:15).

Four formidable terms, surely—sufficiently typical of perils which have had to be confronted again and again in the history of God's Church, whether from paganism, or from the papacy, or from mere worldly hostility to goodness and truth.

II. GOD HAD WROUGHT A GREAT DELIVERANCE FOR HIS PEOPLE. The psalm is, owing to this deliverance, one of triumph and joy.

1. It was so illustrious as to be altogether marvellous, yea, miraculous (Psalms 9:1).

2. God had manifested his judgments (Psalms 9:7).

3. He had rebuked the nations (Psalms 9:5).

4. Had brought guilty cities low, and even blotted them out (Psalms 9:6).

5. Had shown himself as the Goel, the Avenger of innocent blood (Psalms 9:12).

6. Had manifested his remembrance of the poor and of the oppressed (Psalms 9:12).

7. Had made the devices of the wicked to recoil upon themselves.

These are but so many illustrative forms of the way in which God's providence is ever working in the world, even now, under the administration of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is Head over all things to his Church.

III. SUCH DELIVERANCES HAD THROWN GREAT LIGHT ON GOD'S CHARACTER, WORKS, AND WAYS. They had shown:

1. How truly there is a throne high above all the scheming and plotting of men (Psalms 9:7)!

2. That under the sway of that throne judgment is administered for all who are oppressed.

3. That this judgment is manifested in vindicating right and putting wrong to shame (Psalms 9:7, Psalms 9:8).

4. That such glorious and gracious government reveals the lustre of God's everlasting Name. All providential dealings are disclosers of God. "Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the loving-kindness of the Lord."

IV. A SONG OF GRATITUDE, TRIUMPH, AND TRUST IS HEREBY AWAKENED. The very beginning of the psalm is an outburst of thankfulness (Psalms 9:1). The psalmist gathers from deliverances already effected, a ground of trust in God for future days (Psalms 9:9, Psalms 9:10). Judgments already brought to pass prove that God will not let evil deeds slumber in everlasting forgetfulness, and that he will not let the cry of the humble and downtrodden remain for ever unheard (Psalms 9:12). Yea, more. They prove the glorious truth which is triumphantly proclaimed in Psalms 9:17, "The wicked shall return to Sheol, and all the nations that forget God." Few verses, indeed, have been more violently twisted than this to make it suit the exigencies of mediaeval theology. It has been repeatedly dealt with as if it were a sentence on the wicked of everlasting woe. The question of future punishment is dealt with clearly enough in other parts of the Word of God. But it is not that which is intended here. The verse means—God will not suffer wicked people or nations perpetually to oppress the Church. In a little, in his own good time, they shall return to the dust whence they came, and enter the invisible realm of the dead. £ That this is the meaning intended is shown by the verse which follows (Psalms 9:18; cf. also Psalms 37:10). Cheer up, ye poor, despised, and oppressed people of God! Your Vindicator liveth. He will bring you forth to the light when your foes shall have vanished from the scene.

V. THE GRATEFUL SONG OVER MERCIES PAST IS FOLLOWED BY A PRAYER THAT MERCIES YET NEEDED MAY BE VOUCHSAFED.

1. Although there had been a marked deliverance, yet the affliction from which the psalmist had suffered still left its scars upon him. Hence the prayer in Psalms 9:13, Psalms 9:14. The oppression and the oppressor may be speedily removed, but the depression thereby caused lasts long after. And only the prolonged bestowal of grace to help in time of need will ever be sufficient to meet the case.

2. The future security of the world depends on the manifestation of the Divine presence and power; in counteracting the base designs of men, in asserting the right, and avenging the wrong (Psalms 9:19).

3. This can only be done, perhaps, by such judgments as will make the nations tremble, and so will cause them to feel their utter impotence in the grasp of the mighty God (Psalms 9:20).

Note: The remarks, applicable to so many psalms, should not be overlooked here.

1. That we have here, not words of God to man, but words of man to God. Hence they may or may not be models for our imitation. Anyway, no inspiration in prayer can rise above the level of the revelation which had been granted where and when such prayer was offered.

2. Although, in every country and age, prayer from the heart must be limited by the measure of light in the conscience, yet a gracious God will answer it, not according to its limitation or imperfection, but according to his infinite wisdom, his boundless love, and his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

3. The Divine answers to such prayers as we find in the psalm, although they bring deliverance to the righteous, will bring terror and confusion to the wicked. The destruction of Pharaoh's host is the salvation of the hosts of the Lord.—C.

HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH

Psalms 9:13, Psalms 9:14

The gates of death and the gates of Zion.

I. THE GATES OF DEATH OPEN BUT ONCE; THE GATES OF ZION OPEN CONTINUALLY. (Hebrews 9:27; Isaiah 60:11.)

II. THE GATES OF DEATH OPEN TO ALL MEN WITHOUT DISTINCTION; THE GATES OF ZION OPEN ONLY TO THE GOOD. (Ecclesiastes 9:5; John 3:3.)

III. THE GATES OF DEATH OPEN WITHOUT OUR WILL; THE GATES OF ZION ONLY OPEN ACCORDING TO OUR CHOICE. (Ecclesiastes 8:8; Matthew 7:13.)

IV. THE GATES OF DEATH OPEN TO MEN' AS TRANGRESSORS; THE GATES OF ZION OPEN TO THE OBJECTS OF GRACE AND SALVATION. (Romans 5:12; Isaiah 26:1, Isaiah 26:2.)

V. THE GATES OF DEATH ARE DARK WITH TERRORS; THE GATES OF ZION ARE BRIGHT WITH HOPE. (Hebrews 2:15; Psalms 118:20.)

VI. THE GATES OF DEATH AND THE GATES OF ZION ARE ALIKE UNDER THE SUPREME CONTROL OF GOD. (Romans 14:8, Romans 14:9; Revelation 1:18.)

VII. IF WE HAVE ENTERED BY THE GATES OF ZION, AND DWELT THERE WITH GOD, WE NEED NOT FEAR WHEN CALLED TO PASS THROUGH THE GATES OF DEATH. Job asks (Job 38:17), "Have the gates of death been opened to thee?" They have to others. They will be by-and-by to us. We are always near them and in sight of them, but we have no power over them. We cannot hinder them from opening when it is God's will, nor can we return when once we have passed through them. It cannot be long before our turn comes. Every setting sun, every passing hour, every beat of the pulse, is bringing the time nearer. Happy are we if we are found ready, so that the gates of death may be to us the entering into the city, where we may have right to the tree of life and the endless joys of God (Revelation 22:14)!—W.F.

Psalms 9:14

A song of thanksgiving for salvation.

I. SALVATION IS ASCRIBED TO GOD. All deliverances are of God. There may be human means and instruments. There may be judges and saviours, such as Joshua (Nehemiah 9:27). But behind all is God. This holds true of all deliverances—national and individual—of the body, and of the soul. More especially is this true of the deliverance from our enemies, and of our redemption by Jesus Christ.

II. MANIFESTS THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD. God must act in agreement with his character. He cannot deny himself. Therefore in whatsoever deliverances God effects, we may be sure that his righteousness will shine resplendent. So it is of the salvation by Christ (Romans 1:16, Romans 1:17). How vain to ask for help, if we are not willing to have it in God's way! How foolish to expect deliverance, save in the form that will glorify God's Name—his righteousness as truly as his mercy, his justice as well as his love!

III. FORESHADOWS THE FINAL JUDGMENT OF THE WORLD. Every judgment is a sign and pattern of the last judgment. There is no change with God. All through, and in everything he does, he has acted like himself. His Law will stand, His righteousness will be vindicated in the end as in the beginning. The cross of Christ itself prophesies of the just judgments of God. "If they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry?" (Luke 23:31). God's people may await with confidence the result.

IV. CALLS FORTH THE HALLELUJAHS OF THE GOOD. There is the joy of trust (verse 13); of gratitude (verse 14), of hope (verses 15-20). By faith we see the King in his beauty, and rejoice in his rejoicing.—W.F.

HOMILIES BY C. SHORT

Psalms 9:1-6

Thanksgiving.

This and the following psalm have been considered one poem, written by the same author. This one is in a continued strain of triumph throughout, and was composed, perhaps, by David at the conclusion of the Syro-Ammonite War, or after one of his victories over the Philistines.

I. NATURE OF THE PSALMIST'S THANKSGIVING.

1. All his powers of mind and soul took part in it. "With my whole heart." He ascribed his deliverances to God, and not to himself; therefore he was not half-hearted in his praise.

2. He gathered up in his mental vision the mercies of a lifetime. "All thy marvellous works." He was filled with a sense of wonder when he thought of the long succession of God's marvel-lolls ways towards him. The last deliverance did not blot out the memory of those that had gone before.

3. 'God's condescension filled him with rejoicing gratitude. He felt that God was "most High," and that he had wonderfully stooped to regard him and his affairs—the same thought as in the previous psalm.

II. THE GROUNDS OF THE PSALMIST'S THANKSGIVING. Speaking generally, it was for deliverance from his enemies. The language here suggests:

1. That the sense of God's presence with us nerves us against our greatest dangers. (Psalms 9:3.) Perils and temptations lose their power over us when we know God to be with us.

2. God's deliverances from evil spring out of his regard for what is right. (Psalms 9:4.) God's righteousness is as much concerned for our salvation as his love and mercy. The rescue of a soul from sin satisfies the sense of infinite right, and is part of the eternal administration of God.

3. The psalmist saw in prospect the certain destruction of all wickedness, both individual and social. (Psalms 9:5, Psalms 9:6.) The prospect of the prevalence and reign of righteousness filled him with holy gladness and thanksgiving. Not only himself, but all righteous persons, would then enjoy peace and safety. One evil man can do much mischief, and work wide ruin; but when cities and governments become corrupt, their power for evil sweeps all virtue out of its path. Therefore David rejoiced in their extirpation. Let us cultivate a thankful spirit for all the wonderful deliverances which God has made possible and actual to us.—S.

Psalms 9:1-6

The cause of gratitude.

To derive benefit from the study of any ancient writings, we must translate them into our present forms of thought and ways of thinking. David as king sang these hymns to God for the nation and to the nation, and for himself; for he and the people were one. It is difficult for us to realize this, being, as we are, in lower stations and with an intenser feeling of our individuality.

I. THE PRELUDE TO THIS SONG. He praises God for his marvellous works and for his supremacy.

1. They captivated and subdued his whole nature: "With my whole heart."

2. They filled him with joy.

3. He published them to others.

II. THE SPECIAL CAUSES OF HIS GRATITUDE. God had judged his cause and maintained the right by subduing his enemies.

1. We too have enemies to be subdued—difficulties and temptations and hindrances which threaten our safety and destroy our peace.

2. David overlooks his own instrumentality in his victories by thinking only of the great First Cause of them. He saw God in everything. We lose sight of the cause in the instrument, and are not so devout as he. We see law where he saw a person. The highest men see both—the law which prescribes the way of conquest, and him who imparts the needed strength to obey.

III. DAVID REJOICED OVER THE COMPLETE DESTRUCTION OF HIS ENEMIES.

1. He thought it right to rejoice over the destruction of human life; for he thought God sanctioned and did it.

2. Our outward difficulties may vanish, while the inward may remain.

3. We shall fully rejoice only when all our enemies, inward and outward, are vanquished.—S.

Psalms 9:7-12

A righteous God.

Experience is the great teacher; and especially as to our knowledge of the Divine nature. From what God has done (Psalms 9:3-6) we are able to learn what he is, viz. righteous, and a Helper of the oppressed.

I. GOD'S RULE IS A CONTINUAL EXERCISE OF JUDGMENT. (Psalms 9:7-9.)

1. This seals the doom of the unrighteous. It will destroy them and their works (Psalms 9:5, Psalms 9:6).

2. This secures the safety and the triumph of the righteous. Ultimately and really, if not immediately and in appearance.

3. This is a comfort and a refuge for those who suffer from injustice and oppression. (Psalms 9:9.) God is a strong Tower, into which they may run and find shelter from their troubles.

II. THE GROUNDS OF FAITH IN GOD.

1. When we know how to name him. (Psalms 9:10.) Jacob wanted to know the name of the Being who wrestled with him, because the true name indicates the true nature. In our ignorance of the nature of things, we give arbitrary names; but if we have learnt anything of the nature of God, we shall know his true name, and then shall be able to trust in him without fear at all times.

2. God reveals himself as the faithful God to those who earnestly seek him. (Psalms 9:10.) And to none else. We can never prove the fidelity of any one of whom we have never felt the need. And we never seek earnestly for any one unless he becomes in some way necessary to us. And it is only thus, by experience, we find that God does not forsake those who seek him. Knowledge, faith; and experience are thus connected.

III. GROUNDS OF THE JOYFUL WORSHIP OF GOD.

1. God specially dwells in the Church. (Psalms 9:11.) The glory between the cherubim was in Zion. He gathers with his people where they gather, and specially manifests himself. "Where two or three are gathered together," etc.

2. It is a high privilege to know and declare to others the Divine work. (Psalms 9:11.) To be able to expound God's work truly is to help to bring God nearer to men, and so to help to save them.

3. God always remembers the cause of the afflicted. (Psalms 9:12.) The meaning is—God will not let the murderer go unpunished, but will avenge the relatives of the murdered man, and so relieve and console their sufferings. But he hears the cry of all afflicted ones, whatever the cause of their suffering, and comforts them by his Spirit.—S.

Psalms 9:13-20

Prayer to God.

Previous verses have celebrated the triumph of the Divine righteousness in punishing the wicked and defending the cause of the oppressed. Psalms 9:13 and Psalms 9:14 are a personal prayer, interrupting the flow of the general strain of the psalm. Luther says, "In the same way do all feel and sleek who have already overcome some tribulation, and are once more oppressed and tormented. They cry and beg that they may be delivered."

I. THE PSALMIST'S PRAYER TO THE RIGHTEOUS GOD. (Psalms 9:13, Psalms 9:14.)

1. The appeal. "Graciously see or consider my trouble. I am unjustly suffering from the hatred of men. If thou wilt only look upon the fact as it is, then I am confident thou wilt interpose and save me." For the Divine sympathy is always on the side of justice.

2. The arguments which enforces the appeal. Two.

II. THE DIVINE WORK IS A REVELATION OF THE DIVINE RIGHTEOUSNESS. (Psalms 9:15-18.)

1. The plots of the wicked become the means of their own destruction. (Psalms 9:15, Psalms 9:16.) Because the righteous Being overrules in the affairs of men. No wicked schemes can be so well laid but that in the end they ruin him who laid them. We have examples of this in the first and third Napoleons, and constantly recurring ones in more private life.

2. The premature end of the ungodly. (Psalms 9:17.) "The Wicked must return to the unseen world"—sooner than others, is implied (not "the wicked shall be turned into hell"). Wickedness and vice tend to shorten life.

3. The righteous expectation of the afflicted shall be fulfilled. The poor and the afflicted hope in God, and their hope shall not be disappointed. "God is not unrighteous to forget your work of faith and labour of love."

III. AN URGENT CALL UPON GOD TO GIVE STILL MORE EVIDENT PROOF OF HIS RIGHTEOUS RULE. (Psalms 9:19, Psalms 9:20.) "Arise, O Lord, let not man have the upper hand: let not weak man carry himself as if he were strong." What is needed to put men in fear is some irresistible work of judgment among men, that shall put God's supreme rule beyond all doubt. There is something here of impatience—a wish to hasten God's slow but sure methods of maintaining the cause of truth and righteousness in the world.—S.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Psalms 9:4". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tpc/psalms-9.html. 1897.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, January 20th, 2020
the Second Week after Epiphany
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