Matthew Poole's Commentary
A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD'S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.THE ARGUMENT
This Psalm is generally and probably thought to have been composed by David, upon that solemn occasion of brining the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the tabernacle which David had built for it, 2 Samuel 6; wherein he hath a further prospect, even to the temple, which he earnestly desired and intended to build, and which he knew would be built by his son. And when this was done, and the ark brought into it, this Psalm was to be sung, and indeed to this time it seems chiefly directed. For David’s Psalms were not only used by himself upon the first occasions for which he made them, but they were committed to the prefects of sacred music, for the use of the church in all succeeding times. And being a prophet, he speaks, as the prophets used, of things to come as if they were already present, and turns his speech to the temple and its gates, as if they were now built. Moreover, because the tabernacle, and temple, and ark were manifest types of Christ, and of his church, and of the place and state of heavenly glory, David extended his thoughts to them also, or at least the Holy Ghost designed to comprehend them under these typical expressions.
David acknowledgeth God’s sovereignty over the world, Psalm 24:1,2. A description of the persons that shall be of his spiritual kingdom, Psalm 24:3,4. Their blessing, Psalm 24:5,6. An exhortation to receive it, Psalm 24:7-9. Who the King of glory is, Psalm 24:10.
The fulness thereof; all the creatures, and especially the inhabitants wherewith it is replenished. God’s general dominion over and interest in all persons and places seems to be here premised and asserted, either,
1. To show his right to choose any nation whom he pleased to be his peculiar people; which privilege being conferred upon the Israelites, was a great stumbling-block to the heathen nations. Or,
2. To set forth the singular kindness and mercy of God to Israel, who chose them out of all the nations of the world to be near to him, and to have special acquaintance with him, although otherwise he had no other relation to them than what he had to all mankind, to wit, that of a Creator and Governor. Or,
3. To demonstrate the excellency of the Jewish worship and religion above all others, because the God whom they served was the God, and Maker of the whole world, when the gods of the Gentiles were sorry idols, and esteemed by themselves to be but local and confined deities.
For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.Justly have I said that the earth is the Lord’s, for he made it, and laid the foundation of it, and that in a wonderful manner. By the
seas and floods he means the whole collection of waters, as well the sea and rivers running into it, as that great abyss of waters which is contained in the bowels of the earth, of which see Genesis 7:11 49:25 2 Peter 3:5. This is here mentioned as an evidence of God’s wise, and powerful, and gracious providence, that he hath built so vast a building upon so weak a foundation as the waters are, Micah 6:2; and that although the waters are lighter than the earth, and therefore are naturally inclined to be above it, as they were at first; yet God hath so far overruled the inclinations of nature, that the waters shall as it were deny themselves, and run down into channels and caverns of the earth, that so the earth may be a convenient habitation for men and beasts. See Genesis 1:9 Exodus 20:4 Psalm 104:6.
Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place?The hill of the Lord, to wit, Zion or Moriah, the place of God’s sanctuary and special presence. This is here subjoined, either,
1. By way of opposition; though God is the God of the whole world, yet he is in a peculiar manner the God of Israel, and to be worshipped no where but in their holy place. Or,
2. As an inference. Having asserted and proved God’s authority and dominion over all mankind, and consequently their obligations to serve and worship him, he now proposeth a most necessary and important question, especially in those times, when all nations except Israel were under deep ignorance and errors herein, namely, where, and how, and by whom God will be served, and his favour and blessing may be enjoyed? The place is here described, and the qualification of the persons in the following verses.
Who shall stand, to wit, to minister before him, as this word is commonly used with rcspect either to men, as 1 Kings 1:2, compared with 1 Kings 10:8 Daniel 1:5,19; or to God, as Deu 10:8 18:7 Daniel 7:10 Zechariah 3:4.
Standing is the posture of ministers or servants. So the sense is, Who shall serve God, to wit, with God’s acceptation, and to his own advantage?
In his holy place; in the place which he hath sanctified for his service.
He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully.Whose actions and conversations are holy and unblamable. It is here very observable, that the character of a right and acceptable worshipper of God is not taken from his nation and relation to Abraham, nor from all those costly and laborious rites and ceremonies of the law, in which the generality of the Israelites pleased themselves, but in moral and spiritual duties, which most of them grossly neglected.
A pure heart; purged from hypocrisy and inward filthiness, and careful to approve itself to God as well as to men, ordering a man’s very thoughts and affections according to God’s word. This is fitly added, because a man may keep his hands clean in good measure upon mere worldly motives, or with an evil design, or without any respect to God.
Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity; either,
1. Who doth not worship idols, which are oft called vanities in Scripture. Or,
2. Who doth not swear vainly or falsely, the phrase here being much the same with that in the third commandment, of taking God’s name in vain. But that seems to be a quite differing phrase, and the name of God there mentioned determines the sense of that general phrase to oaths, which without that addition, or something equivalent, is never to my knowledge used in Scripture in that sense. Nor do all those learned men who so expound this place give one instance of that signification of this phrase. And for their other argument for that sense, that this clause is conjoined with the next by the conjunction vau, and therefore is to be explained by it, it seems to have no weight, because thesameconjunctionjoinsthetwofirstcharacterstogether, and yet it is confessedthat cleanhands and a pureheart are two distinct and very differingthings. Orrather,
3. Who doth not immoderately value and affect, or ardently desire, (as this very phrase of lifting up the soul doth oft signify, as Deu 24:15 Psalm 25:1 Jeremiah 22:27 44:14 Ezekiel 24:25 Hosea 4:8) the vain things of this present life and world, such as honours, riches, pleasures, and the like, which are oft called vain things or vanities in Scripture, as Psalm 4:2 119:37 Ecclesiastes 1:2 12:8. And this is very fitly mentioned as a character of a truly goodman, because hereby he is distinguished from all ungodly men whatsoever, whose inseparable property this is, both in the Old and New Testament, noted to be, to love vanity, and to set their hearts chiefly upon the good things of this life, such as corn and wine, Psalm 4:2,6,7; and to have their portion in this life, Psalm 17:14; and to mind earthly things, Philippians 3:19; and to be friends of the world, Jam 4:4; and to love the world, and the things of the world, 1Jo 2:15. Whereas good men are every where described to be such as make God their portion, Psalm 16:5; and prize and desire his favour and service infinitely more than all the enjoyments of this life, yea, even than life itself, Job 23:12 Psalm 4:6,7 63:3 119:72; and such as are weaned from earthly things, Psalm 131:1,2; and have their affections set on things above, not on things of the earth, Colossians 3:2; and lay not uptheir treasure in earth, but in heaven, Matthew 6:19,20; all which is directly opposite to this lifting up the soul to vanity. Deceitfully, Heb. unto or with deceit, i.e. falsely, or with a purpose of deceiving or injuring others thereby. Under this negative the contrary affirmative is included, that he is one who, when he is called to swear, doth swear in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness, Jeremiah 4:2.
He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.The blessing, i.e. the blessings which God hath promised to his church and people, to wit, grace and glory, and all other good things, as they are summed up, Psalm 84:11. He and he only shall be truly blessed. From the Lord; which is added significantly, by way of opposition to the blessings which men received, either from the priests or from other men, which were oftentimes given unto unworthy persons, and in that case were without any effect or benefit; whereas God’s blessings are given only to good men, and are always effectual for their good.
Righteousness, i.e. the blessed fruit or reward of his righteousness, as the work is oft put for the reward of it, as Leviticus 19:13 Job 7:2 Psalm 109:20. Or, kindness or mercy, and those benefits which flow from it, which are oft called by the name of righteousness, as Judges 5:11 1 Samuel 12:7 Psalm 48:10 112:9.
This is the generation of them that seek him, that seek thy face, O Jacob. Selah.The generation; the true progeny which God regards; whereby he reflects upon them, who boasted and trusted to their carnal generation or descent from Jacob.
That seek him, to wit, God, mentioned in the end of Psalm 24:5, or his face, as it is more fully expressed in the next clause; i.e. that make it their care and study to know him, and his mind and will, and to please and serve him, as this phrase is usually understood.
Thy face, i.e. his face, by a familiar change of the person; of which many instances have been already noted; and his face, i. e. his grace and favour, which is oft called God’s face, as Genesis 4:14 Exodus 33:14,15 Psa 16:11 27:2 44:3. And so this phrase is used 2 Chronicles 7:14 Psalm 27:8 Hosea 5:15. O Jacob; so the sense is, that seek the true church, here called Jacob; that desire the knowledge of it, and conversation with it; in which sense many are said to seek Solomon’s face, as the phrase is in the Hebrew, 1 Kings 10:24 2 Chronicles 9:23, and the harlot to seek her lover’s face, Proverbs 7:15. And so this is by some expounded of the Gentiles, who inquired after the true church, and finding it in Jacob, were desirous to become proselytes, and to join themselves to the church of Jacob or Israel. But it must be remembered that the psalmist is not here speaking of the calling of the Gentiles, but only of the character or qualification of the true Jacobites or Israelites, who cannot conveniently be said to seek the face of Jacob, i.e. their own. And the phrase of seeking the face of Jacob, or of the church, is no where used in Scripture. Or, as it is in the margin, O God of Jacob. But that seems to be too large a supplement. Or, this is Jacob, the pronoun this being easily understood out of the beginning of the verse. Or, the generation (which may in the same manner be supplied) of Jacob, Jacob being here put not for the person, but for the posterity of Jacob, as it is Genesis 49:7 Numbers 23:7,10,23 Deu 32:9 Psalm 14:7; or for the church or people of God, which is oft called Jacob or Israel as Isaiah 14:1 41:8 44:1,5,21, &c. So the sense is, This and this only is the true Jacob or Israel, or church of God, and all others are so only in name and title, although they be descended lineally from him. Or, in Jacob, the particle in being here understood, as it is in Psalm 2:12 17:12, and in many other places. So the sense of the place is, This is the true generation of them that seek God’s face in Jacob, i.e. either in Jacob’s land or sanctuary, the only place where God was to be sought; or among the Jacobites or Israelites; by which he insinuates what is expressed Romans 9:6, that all are not Israel that are of Israel, and that all were not Israelites indeed that were sprung from Jacob, but only those of them who were such as he described, Psalm 24:4. Compare John 1:47 Romans 2:28,29.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.The question was put, Who shall ascend into God’s hill and holy place? Psalm 24:3; to which answer hath been given, and the persons described, Psalm 24:4-6. But because there still were impediments in the way, and there were
gates and doors to this holy place, to shut out those who would ascend thither, therefore he poetically speaks to those gates to open and let in the King of glory, who would make way for his subjects and followers. Here is a representation of a triumphant entrance of a king into his royal city and palace; for which the gates use to be enlarged, or at least wide opened. He speaks here of the gates and doors, either,
1. Of his royal city of Zion, through which the ark was at this time to be brought to the tabernacle, which David had built for it, called everlasting, either from the solidity and durableness of the matter, or from David’s desires and hopes that God would make them such in some sort, because he loved the gates of Zion, Psalm 87:2. Or rather,
2. Of the temple, which by faith and the Spirit of prophecy he beheld as already built, and accordingly addresseth his speech to it, whose doors he calls everlasting, not so much because they were made of strong and durable materials, as in opposition of those of the tabernacle, which were removed from place to place, whereas the temple and its doors were constantly fixed in one place; and if the sins of Israel did not hinder, were to abide there for ever, i.e.: as long as the Mosaical dispensation was to last, or until the coming of the Messias, as that phrase is very commonly taken in the Old Testament. These gates he bids lift up their heads, or tops, either by allusion to those gates which have a portcullis at the top of them, which may be let down or taken up, and accordingly makes the entrance either higher or lower; or that by this figurative address to the gates he might signify the duty of the people to make their gates higher and wider, to give their king a more magnificent entrance. But though this be the literal sense of the place, yet there is also a mystical sense of it, and that too designed by the Holy Ghost. And as the temple was undoubtedly a type of Christ, and of his church, and of heaven itsself; so this place may also contain a representation, either of Christ’s entrance into his church, or into the hearts of his faithful people, who are here commanded to set open their hearts and souls, which are not unfitly called everlasting doors, for his reception; or of his ascension into heaven, where the saints or angels are poetically introduced as preparing the way, and opening the heavenly gates, to receive their Lord and King, returning to his royal habitation with triumph and glory. Compare Psalm 47:5 68:25 Acts 2:33 Ephesians 4:8.
The King of glory; the glorious King Jehovah, who dwelt in the temple and between the cherubims; or the Messias, the King of Israel, and of his church, called the King or Lord of glory, 1 Corinthians 2:8 Jam 2:1, both for that glory which is inherent in him, and that which is purchased by him for his members.
Who is this King of glory? The LORD strong and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.This seems to be a prolepsis, or removal of an objection. You will say, What is the cause of this imperious call? and why or for whom must those gates be opened in so solemn and extraordinary a manner?
The Lord strong and mighty: this contains an answer to the question; He is no ordinary person, no meaner and no other than Jehovah, who hath given so many proofs of his almightiness, who hath subdued all his enemies, and is now returned in triumph. Here is in this and the foregoing verse a sacred dialogue between several persons. And some suppose that the sacred musicians, which attended upon the service of the ark and tabernacle, and were doubtless employed in this solemnity, 2 Samuel 5:5, were divided into two choirs, whereof one spake the former, and the other the latter verse.
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; and the King of glory shall come in.The same verse is repeated again, partly to shame and awaken the dulness of mankind, who are so hardly brought to a serious preparation for such solemnities; and partly to signify the great worth and importance of the matter, contained under these expressions.
Who is this King of glory? The LORD of hosts, he is the King of glory. Selah.Under whose command are all the hosts of heaven and earth, angels and men, and ah other creatures.