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Bible Commentaries

Thomas Scott: Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms
Psalms 68

 

 

Verses 1-35

Psalm 68:1-35.

V:1- 3. This psalm is supposed to have been written and used, when the ark was carried up to Mount Zion. The first of these verses evidently refers to the words used by Moses, at the removal of the ark ( Numbers 10:35-36 :) but the sacred name JEHOVAH, used in that passage, is here changed for ELOHIM, or God; and the future tense in the first clause is substituted instead of the imperative, the language of prediction for that of prayer. Indeed the old version, more literally than the present, renders the whole of these verses as a prophecy, " God will arise, and his enemies shall be scattered, &c.:" for all the verbs are future. (Notes, Psalm 5:10-11; Psalm 67:1-3.)

The Psalmist looked back to the former mercies of God to Israel, and predicted further prosperity to his people, now the symbol of God"s presence had taken possession of its appointed residence among them. The presence of God with Israel had dissipated the force and projects of those who hated him and them, as the cloud of smoke is dispersed by the wind, or as the wax is liquefied by the fire. And while the wicked had perished at his presence, the righteous had expressed their admiring gratitude and joy, in every imaginable way. Thus it had been of old; thus it would certainly be in future times; and thus the worshippers prayed that it might be, then and at all times.

V:4. Rideth upon the heavens.] (Notes, 31- 33. Deuteronomy 33:26.) Or, as some render the words, " Rideth " through the deserts," as the Protector of Israel. I AM is an abbreviation of JEHOVAH, and signifies selfvixtcnce and eternity. This name is used very frequently, in conjunction with Hallelu, forming the word Hallelujah; that Isaiah , " Praise JAH or "JEHOVAH.

(18. Heb. Notes, Exodus 3:14-15; Exodus 6:2-3.) Hebrews , who derives his being from none, but gives being to all, is engaged by promise and covenant to protect and bless his people; who on that account, as well as on many others, are called on to extol and rejoice in him.

V:5 , 6. The God of immutable and eternal majesty and glory, whose ark, the symbol of his presence, abode in the sanctuary of Israel, (as typical of the human nature of Jesus Christ, his true temple in which he will dwell for ever;) was the condescending Patron of orphans, widows, and all destitute persons. Those who had lost their relations in Egypt and the wilderness, and were left as lonely individuals, were brought into other families in Israel, and settled in Canaan : the people, who had been in cruel bondage to Pharaoh, were set at liberty : but, as the surviving rebellious Egyptians inhabited a country desolated by divine judgments; so the rebellious Israelites dwelt during forty years in the barren wilderness. The calling of the Gentiles, and the rejection of the unbelieving Jews, seem likewise to have been predicted : while the general plan of divine Providence is briefly described. (Marg. Ref.)

V:7 , 8. When JEHOVAH, displaying his glory from the pillar of fire and cloud, conducted Israel in triumph out of Egypt, and through the wilderness; the whole creation appeared to stand in awe of the Creator, who thus manifested his glory, as the God of Israel. The earth trembled, the heavens poured down impetuous showers, while the sea divided to open a path for Israel, and returned to overwhelm their pursuers. (Notes, Exodus 13:21-22; Exodus 15:1-21.) But especially, when the people were encamped before Sinai, that mountain shook to its foundations, at the presence of Israel"s God. (Notes, Exodus 19:16-20. Judges 5:4-5.)

V:9 , 10. The awful displays of JEHOVAH"S glory were not more extraordinary, than his gracious interpositions in behalf of his people. In order to provide for their urgent wants, " he commanded the clouds from above, and opened " the doors of heaven; and rained down manna upon them " to eat." " He rained flesh also upon them as dust, and " feathered fowl like as the sand of the sea." (cv40- 42. Notes, Psalm 78:17-31. Exodus 16:13-36.) Thus they were plentifully supplied, and their hearts were confirmed, or strengthened and encouraged, when wearied with marching through the wilderness. They dwelt in the midst of their provisions : and the poorest of them were as sufficiently provided for, as if they had inhabited Canaan, when rendered most fruitful by the early and latter rains. The word rendered " congregation," seems to mean any living thing; and to mark out in one general term, the immense multitude of living creatures, which were in this astonishing manner continually maintained. The Septuagint render it, " Thy living creatures." Considering the psalm as predictive and descriptive of the Ascension of the Saviour, our thoughts are naturally led to the events that followed; and many parts of it are peculiarly applicable to those events. In this view, how weary and barren was the visible church at the death of Christ ! But what a gracious and refreshing rain was soon sent down upon it, in the pouring forth of the Spirit at the day of Pentecost and afterwards ." What provision was then made for the poor souls, who had long waited for redemption in Israel, or who had groped in darkness in other lands ! (Notes, Psalm 72:1-7

V:11 , 12. In many instances the Lord himself " gave " the word,"" commanding the Israelites to march against their enemies, or to go forward regardless of them : and when he had given his people the victory, he put into their mouths the word of praise and thanksgiving. Then " great " was the army of those that published it." The word rendered " published," is feminine : and the Psalmist seems to allude to the custom of the women in companies, joining to celebrate the successes of the nation with songs of praise and triumph, as Miriam and the women of Israel, and Deborah, and others did. (Notes, Exodus 15:1-21. Judges 5:1-31 :) So decided were their victories, that while the kings commanding numerous and powerful armies fled, with the greatest precipitation, but in vain; the spoil which was taken was so large, that even the women who remained at home received a share of it. (Marg. Ref.)

Thus when our Lord, having risen as a Conqueror from the grave, gave the word to preach his gospel, great numbers were raised up to publish the glad tidings : opposing rulers and empires fell before them; (Notes, Revelation 6:1-2; Revelation 12:7-12;) and millions have shared the blessings, who have been exempted from the persecutions and sufferings, which apostles and evangelists endured. It is also remarkable, that the whole of these verses is in the future tense; and therefore, though properly applied, as the language of poetry, to past events, it may well be considered as prophetical likewise. " The Lord will give the word, &c."

V:13. Israel making bricks in Egypt, and lodging like slaves between the rows of the kilns, or furnaces, being covered with clay and smoke, appeared very mean : but when possessed of Canaan, during the reigns of David and Song of Solomon , they appeared in beauty and splendour; and still more Song of Solomon , as " they were a holy people unto the LORD." Thus the slaves of Satan, when converted to Christ, being justified and sanctified by him, begin to look comely and honourable : and when they shall arrive in heaven, all remains of their sinful estate shall disappear, and they shall be as " the wings of a dove covered with silver, and " her feathers witli yellow gold." (Note, Psalm 149:4. P. O. Notes, 1 Corinthians 15:45-54. 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10.)

V:14. When the Almighty scattered and destroyed the kings of Canaan for the church of Israel, (the dove mentioned in the preceding verse, the words being feminine,) it not only became very honourable; but was likewise so purified from sin, and adorned with holiness, that it appeared white like the top of Salmon when covered with snow. (Notes, Psalm 51:7 - Isaiah 1:16-20.) The generation which fought under Joshua was peculiarly excellent : (Notes, Joshua 5:2-8; Joshua 22:34 :) and under the Judges , and in after ages, they were generally reformed, before they were delivered and made victorious. But the original is in the future tense, and seems an evident prediction, under allusions to these past events, of the purity of the church, and the success of the gospel, in the primitive ages, and at the approach of the millennium. The nineteenth chapter of the Revelation seems to be a prophetic exposition of this verse, far more striking than any which can be found in the history of Israel.

V:15 , 16. It is supposed that this part of the psalm was sung, when the company attending the ark came within view of mount Zion. If the former of these verses be read with notes of interrogation, the passage may be thus rendered, " The hill of God, is it the hill of Bashan ? " The hill with craggy eminences, the hill of Bashan ? " Why leap ye Song of Solomon ," (or, " why look ye askance with envy;") " ye hills with craggy eminences ? This is the hill which " God desireth for his habitation; yea, JEHOVAH will dwell " in it perpetually." The apostrophe is exceedingly animated and poetical, viewed in this light. God had preferred Zion to the loftiest mountains, as the place of his permanent residence, and the type of his true church in which he will dwell to eternity. (Notes, Psalm 78:67-69; Psalm 87:1-6.)

V:17. The God of Israel is here described as a mighty Prince and Conqueror coming to his palace, to take possession of his throne, with a very large army of chariots and horsemen; as his thousands of angels were a far more splendid retinue, than ever attended the greatest monarch. Thus he descended upon mount Sinai: thus he would dwell upon mount Zion : thus the Messiah ascended into heaven, attended with an innumerable company of angels; and thus he shall at length come to judge the world. (Marg. Ref. q.) The original word does not seem to mean angels; yet they are evidently intended. The marginal reading many tlmtsands is more literal. "Thousands of repetition; " or " thousands again and again repeated." Among these the Lord manifested himself, as he had done " in Sinai, in the holy place." (Notes, Exodus 3:4-5; Exodus 19:16-20.)

V:18. When the ark was placed upon mount Zion, the tabernacle was enriched with the spoils of the vanquished nations, which were there deposited for the benefit of the Israelites, notwithstanding their rebellions, that " the LORD God might dwell among them : " and of these spoils the temple was chiefly built. (Notes, 2 Samuel 8:9-11. 1 Chronicles 26:28; 1 Chronicles 29:3-9.) But the ascension of Christ must here be meant, who is thus proved to be JEHOVAH. When Hebrews -ascended into heaven, he led captive Satan, sin, and death, which had held all men in captivity; and he received, as the recompence of his death upon the cross, all those gifts which were needful, in order to the conversion of sinners, and completing the salvation of believers : these he continually bestows on those for whom he received them; even on rebellious men, that " the " LORD God may dwell among them," as their Friend and Father. The apostle cites this passage, and explains it in respect of the gifts bestowed by the risen and ascended Saviour. (Notes, Ephesians 4:7-13.) He does not, however, take it from the Septuagint, but gives the sense in other words. To receive a gift for another, implies giving it Some render the word translated " for men," in Prayer of Manasseh , as referring to the human nature of Christ. The original name, or title, of God is here " JAH- ELOHIM." (Note, 4.)

V:19 , 20. The preceding review of the Lord"s dealings with his people, and the prophetic foresight of far greater benefits, (Note, 1 Peter 1:10-12,) caused the Psalmist to break forth abruptly into adoring praises. This must have had great effect, when sung by the numerous bands which attended the ark, accompanied with instrumental musick, in great variety and perfection. (Note, 1 Chronicles 16:34-36.) The God of salvation, day by day, or every day, heaped benefits on his people, and, as it were, loaded them with favours; and therefore it was but reasonable, that he should be praised every day. Unto him, even GOD the Lord, belonged the outgoings from death. Life and death, heaven and hell, are absolutely at his disposal. The Lord Jesus is " the Resurrection and the Life." He has " the " keys of death and hell; " (Marg. Ref. Note, Revelation 1:12-20; He has "opened the kingdom of heaven to all " believers," he has made a way for their deliverance from spiritual and eternal death; he has taken away the sting and terror of death, and made that " king of terrors " the gain and privilege of his people; he has consecrated the grave as the repository of their bodies, which he will raise at length incorruptible and immortal. Our God is the God of salvation. (20) Or, salvations. (Notes, Is. Psalm 12:1-3. John 4:21-24.)

V:21. The gifts received by the ascended Saviour, though for " rebellious Prayer of Manasseh ," would not preserve such from destruction as went on still in their sins. The God of salvation, while he pardons and blesses the repenting rebel, is peculiarly terrible to the impenitent and unbelieving. (Note, Exodus 34:5-35" The hairy scalp " means, the crown of the head, the principal strength, confidence, and glory of the enemy. Christ will crush the serpent"s head. (Marg. Ref. Note, Genesis 3:14-15.)

V:22 , 23. The Lord had promised to save Israel from their enemies by the hand of David : he would therefore renew the wonders which he wrought, when Og king of Bashan was slain, and when the Egyptians perished at the Red Sea. The ascension of Christ made way for most signal displays of the Lord"s power, in spreading the gospel, and in taking vengeance on his enemies: and the more glorious prevalence of Christianity shall be attended with such slaughter of antichristian opposers, as will literally verify the words here used. (Marg. Ref. Notes, Psalm 149:6-9. Isaiah 63:1-6. Revelation 19:17-21.) As the verses follow the prophecy of our Lord"s ascension, these events seem more directly predicted; and especially the conversion of the Jews, their restoration to their own land, and the vengeance on those who shall oppose them. (Notes, Ez. xxxviii, 39:)

V:24 , 25. When the solemnity of the day was nearly finished, these verses seem to have been sung. The congregation had been spectators of the triumphant manner, in which their God and King had gone up to take possession of his sanctuary, attended with sacred musick and rejoicing. He had accepted their services; and all was so happily concluded, as to presage future prosperous days. (Notes, Psalm 24:7-10. 1 Chronicles 15:16-24 In like manner the prophecy of the Son of David, (the King of kings and Lord of lords,) going forth to destroy his enemies and enlarge his kingdom, is introduced by a vision of " much people in heaven, saying Alleluia; salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord " our God; &c." (Notes, Revelation 19:1-21 :) A scene not wholly unlike, but immensely more august, than that procession with the ark to mount Zion, which was the pledge of David"s further victories and prosperity.

My God, my King. (24) Psalm 145:1. Damsels. (25) Psalm 148:11-14. Notes, 11 , 12. Jeremiah 31:3-5; Jeremiah 31:10-14, v: 13. The triumphant entrance of the ascending Saviour, amidst the loud acclamations of the heavenly hosts, is shadowed forth under these images.

V:26. From the fountain, &c.] That Isaiah , " Ye, who " spring from the fountain," or the stock, " of Israel. Thus the people in companies seem responsively to have called upon each other, to bless the Lord, (cxxxiv, Psalm 135:13; Psalm 15:1 to Psalm 21:13.)

V:27. The tribe of Benjamin, from which Saul the first king of Israel sprang, joined in this solemnity, as willingly subject to David; and, though a small tribe, descended from Jacob"s youngest Song of Solomon , and almost destroyed in the war at Gibeah; (Notes, Judges 20:1-48 :;) and now eclipsed by Judah whose princes supported David as his council, or by their multitudes; it manifested no jealousy or envy. Not only the rulers of the other tribes in the vicinity of Jerusalem attended on this occasion, but those of Zebulun and Naphtali which lay most remote : so harmonious was the whole nation on this occasion ! (Notes, 1 Chronicles 12:22-40; 1 Chronicles 13:1-4.) Thus after Christ"s ascension, rival nations and people, near and far off, thronged into his church.

V:28. The people seem here to have addressed the king. The LORD his God had commanded all parties thus to strengthen David"s cause, and had effected their willing submission; and they prayed, that he would establish what he had by him wrought for his people, in preserving the unity of the nation, and increasing its prosperity. " May " it please thee, O God, to increaseand confirm it : for, as " it is begun, so it must be perfected, by thee alone." Bp. Patrick. (Notes, Psalm 138:8. Ephesians 3:20-21, Philippians 1:1-30 : V:29. The word rendered " temple " is also used for the tabernacle: ( 1 Samuel 3:3 :) yet it is probable, that David spoke this prophetically, and foretold that the temple, which was to be built at Jerusalem, would render the worship there performed so much known, that kings would bring presents and oblations to JEHOVAH, to be offered there. This was a figure of the conversion of the kings of the earth unto Christ in the latter days. (Notes, Psalm 72:8-11. Ezra 7:11-28. Isaiah 49: 22, 23;604 -14.

V:30. The same word is here rendered " company," as is before translated " congregation," but which signifies a living creature: (Note, 9 , 10:) and it seems in this place to mean a wild beast. The whole verse may be thus rendered : " " Rebuke the wild beast of the reeds, the congregation of the mighty atnong the calves of the nations, skipping," or exulting, " with pieces of silver; " " scatter the people that delight in war." " Bp. Home.

Some interpret " the beast of the reeds " to mean the crocodile, the emblem of Egypt; and the " calves of the nations," the objects of the Egyptian idolatry; while their " skipping with pieces of silver," is supposed to refer to the rites of their worship. As, however, David was not attacked by the Egyptians, or about to make war on them, this interpretation is not very satisfactory. " The beast of " the reed " or lance, seems to denote a warrior, fierce as a wild beast, perhaps Hadadezer king of Syria. " The multitude of the bulls and the calves of the people " were the powerful and numerous commanders, with their troops and I apprehend the prayer Isaiah , " O Lord, rebuke them, enraged and strong as they are, till they lay themselves doum for us to set our feet on their necks, and supplicate their lives, offering pieces of silver for tribute, as owning themselves subject to us. Yea, " scatter the people that delight " in war," as they evidently do." (Notes, 2 Samuel 8:10 The word, rendered " submit themselves," means the most unreserved humiliation. It is used only here and Proverbs 6:3; where it is rendered, " Humble thyself." It is no doubt to be considered also as a typical prophecy, and a prayer of the church for a decided victory, over the most furious and haughty of her oppressors and persecutors. (Marg. Ref.)

V:31- 33. The victories, gained by David and Israel over the surrounding nations, would induce even those who were more distant, and most addicted to idolatry, to come to Jerusalem, and join themselves to the worshippers of the true God. (Marg. Ref. c, d.) The conversion of the nations, in consequence of the judgments of God on the opposers of the gospel in the primitive times, and before the millennium, is evidently foretold : for the kingdoms of the earth are called upon to join in the praises of Israel; and to adore him, who rode on the heavens to the help of his people, (Note, Deuteronomy 33:26,) and who spake with a mighty voice to them from mountSinai. When the Messiah ascended on high, to " the glory which he had with : " the Father before the world was," he sent forth the powerful word of his gospel, calling on all men to submit to him, " and honour him even as they honoured the Father that sent him." Ethiopia, &c. (31) The Ethiopians shall hasten with their willing oblations to the God of Israel. As connected with Egypt, it is probable that Ethiopia in Africa is meant : the land of negroes. (Notes, Acts 8:26-40.) This may encourage our efforts and prayers for the conversion of the much injured Africans.

V:34 , 35. All the glorious perfections of God, which are his " excellency," concur in protecting his church. The power which made the clouds, and rules the highest heavens, is exerted in behalf of his people and communicated to them, " out of his holy places; " the sanctuary of old, as the type of " heaven itself," " whither the Fore" runner is for us entered;" and whence especially he is terrible to his enemies; for " holy and reverend is his " name."

(Notes, 29: Psalm 111:9-10. Psalm 148:13-14. Deuteronomy 33:27-29.) Blessed be God. (35) Notes, Psalm 41:11-13; Psalm 72:17-19. Ephesians 1:3-8.

PRACTICAL OBSERVATIONS.

V:1-17.

When God arises to plead the cause of his people, the confederated power of those who hate him will be dissipated and dissolved; and at length all the wicked will perish at his presence. The same displays of his power and glory will rejoice the righteous; and words cannot express the cause which they have, and ever will have, to triumph in him as their unchangeable Friend, and to celebrate his praises. His condescension is equal to his majesty : he always patronizes the afflicted and oppressed; and poor sinners, helpless and exposed more than any destitute orphans, are readily admitted among his sons and daughters, and share all the blessings of that high relation. Indeed all the company of his chosen were once bound in Satan"s chains, and employed in a baser drudgery than that of making bricks; and far more wretched and abject, than the Israelites in Egypt. But when he comes to break off their chains, and claim them for his own, he leads them forth to liberty, to victory, and to eternal glory. They are made willing to follow him, and he goes before them : heaven and earth concur in supplying their wants, and promoting their salvation : difficulties in their path only make way for their almighty Friend to shew his care of them; he guides and guards them; he feeds their souls tvith the Bread of heaven, and gives them the Water of life to drink : and, while he graciously prepares for the smils of " the poor in spirit," he will not withhold what is needful for their bodies or families. They reap the benefit of the Redeemer"s victories; and, fighting under his banner and by his word of command, they profit by the assaults of every enemy : until complete salvation render those " white as snow in Salmon," and beautiful beyond all that is lovely in the visible creation, who once were most mean and loathsome, through the guilt and defilement of their sins.

V:18-35.

The death of our Redeemer was the redemption-price of all the blessings which he confers on sinners, and his resurrection and ascension made way for his conferring them on mankind. When he ascended on high, our God declared his church of ransomed sinners to be his residence, which he greatly desired and delighted in; while in its exalted Head " all the fulness of the Godhead dwelleth " bodily." He now reigns over heaven, and earth, and hell, with unlimited authority. In vain do kings or nations envy or oppose his sovereignty : all must submit, or be destroyed by him; and his wrath is more dreadful from mount Zion than it was from mount Sinai. Having led our oppressors captive, " he hath received gifts for " rebellious " Prayer of Manasseh ," which he never refuses to such as humbly sue for them; and those who partake of them become thenceforth " an habitation of God through the Spirit." The gifts of his written word, and of the ministry of his gospel, are vouchsafed to our land. He gave the word, great was the multitude of those who published it; and they have been raised up successively even to the present day : may he give commandment that thousands more may be raised up, to go forth and preach the gospel in every part of the earth ! And may we, may all the inhabitants of Britain, profit by our peculiar privileges ! If we have embraced from our hearts this proffered mercy, let us " bless the LORD who daily loadeth us with benefits." " Our God is the God of salvation : " he has quickened us when dead in sin, and will not leave us till he has brought us to glory, honour, and eternal life. But he will crush the serpent"s head, and utterly destroy all those who " go on still in their trespasses : " for his mercies to his church will be attended with judgment on his enemies, till the complete salvation of the one be accompanied with the final ruin of the other. And as our Lord and King condescends to come and dwell among his people, let us observe the tokens of his presence; and let all of every rank, age, and sex, concur in blessing his name : for union and harmony are the stability of the church. All our strength is in and from the Lord; and if he has begun to communicate his grace to our souls, we may pray in faith, that he would daily stablish that which he has wrought for us and in us. May he speedily so strengthen his cause upon earth, that all the proud, idolatrous, and oppressive, all that delight in war, or maintain opposition to his church, may be scattered and brought down; that all kings and nations may share the blessings of his gospel, and sing praises to his name. May these predictions be fulfilled in their most extensive meaning, that all the inhabitants of the world may adore and rejoice in " his excellency over Israel; " and that he may no longer be terrible to any of them out of his holy places : but that all may " have grace to worship him in reverence and godly " fear." (Note, Hebrews 12:26-29.) And while all unite in ascribing power and dominion unto him, may all experience strength communicated from him, enabling them to resist temptation, and to overcome every enemy of their salvation;

(Notes, Psalm 138:3. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. Ephesians 3:14-19. Philippians 4:10-13. Colossians 1:9-14 :) thus may one nation call upon another to bless the Lord, and all on earth form one general chorus, like that of angels in heaven, continually saying with alacrity and gratitude, " Blessed " be God," even " the God and Father of our Lord Jesus " Christ," throughout all ages, for evermore.

 


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Bibliography Information
Scott, Thomas. "Commentary on Psalms 68:4". Thomas Scott: Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations on the book Psalms. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsp/psalms-68.html. 1804.

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Friday, November 15th, 2019
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