Matthew Poole's Commentary
To the chief Musician, A Psalm and Song of David. Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion: and unto thee shall the vow be performed.THE ARGUMENT
The design of this Psalm seems to be to declare the great and glorious work of Divine Providence, both towards his church and the land of his people, and towards the rest of mankind.
David praiseth God for spiritual blessings, as hearing prayer, and purging away sin, Psalm 65:1-3, and for the blessedness of those that dwell in his courts, Psalm 65:4; and also for temporal blessings, as governing the world, and the abundance of all worldly enjoyments, Psalm 65:5-13.
Waiteth, Heb. is silent, or silence, i.e. quietly waits, as this phrase is used also Psalm 62:1. And praise may be here put for the person or persons who use to praise God upon all occasions, and who are now prepared and ready to do so; as deceit is put for a deceitful man, as Proverbs 12:24, and sin for the sinner, Proverbs 13:6, and dreams for dreamers, Jeremiah 27:9. So the meaning may seem to be this, God’s people patiently and believingly wait for an opportunity to offer their praises to God; for at present they seem to be in some straits, as divers passages of this Psalm do intimate. In Zion: though all the people of the world have great cause to praise thee, yet none pay thee this tribute, but thy people in Zion; and they indeed have really peculiar and eminent obligations and occasions to perform this duty.
Unto thee shall the vow be performed; all the thank-offerings which thy people vowed unto thee in the time of their danger shall be faithfully paid, to wit,
in Zion; which is to be repeated out of the first clause of the verse.
O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.That hearest prayer; that usest and delightest to hear and answer the prayers of thy people in Zion; which he justly mentions as one of the chiefest of God’s favours and privileges vouchsafed to his church.
All flesh, i.e. men of all sorts and nations, who were allured by this and other singular benefits to join themselves to the Jewish church, according to Solomon’s prediction, 1 Kings 8:41-43. Withal this may be a tacit prophecy of the conversion of the Gentiles.
Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away.Iniquities prevail against me; they are a burden too heavy for me, as he complains, Psalm 38:4. They are so many and great, that for them thou mightest justly reject my prayers, and destroy my person. But this is another glorious privilege granted to thy people, and that, in answer to their prayers, thou dost graciously pardon and purge away their sins.
Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts: we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple.Thou choosest, out of the lump of mankind, to be one of thy peculiar people.
Causest, i.e. permittest and commandest, and by the disposal of thy providence, and the influences of thy grace, procurest and orderest.
To approach unto thee; to draw near to God in his house and ordinances by prayer and praises, and other acts of acquaintance and communion with him.
In thy courts; in the courts of thy house. He mentioneth courts, because the people were permitted to go no further into God’s house.
Shall be satisfied; for they only get that solid satisfaction which all men desire, but no other persons or people can find elsewhere.
With the goodness of thy house; with the spiritual and everlasting blessings there conferred upon thy people, the grace, and favour, and fellowship of God, remission of sins, renovation of heart and life, the knowledge of God, and of ourselves, and of our duty and true interest, joy, and peace, and well-grounded hopes or assurance of eternal life; in comparison whereof all the enjoyments of this world are but dross and dung.
By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us, O God of our salvation; who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth, and of them that are afar off upon the sea:By terrible things; or, in a terrible manner, i.e. so as to strike thy people with a holy awe and reverence of thee and of thy judgments, and thine enemies with dread and horror. Or, in a wonderful manner, as this word is rendered in the Chaldee, Deu 10:21; things wonderful and terrible being put together, as expressing the same thing, Psalm 106:22. In righteousness, i.e. by virtue of thy justice, or faithfulness, or goodness; whereby thou art inclined and engaged to help thy people when they are in distress, and resort unto thee by prayer. Wilt thou answer us; thou wilt graciously answer and grant our prayers and desires.
The confidence, i.e. the only object of a safe and undeceiving confidence; for there is no other person or thing in the world that any man living can trust to without fear and certainty of disappointment. Or, thou art the stay and support of all mankind, by thy powerful and gracious providence, Psalm 104:27 Acts 17:28 Hebrews 1:3. Others refer this to the calling of the Gentiles. But that seems not to suit with the following verses, which manifestly speak of God’s general providence. Of all the ends of the earth; not only of thy people Israel, but of all persons and nations, even as far as to the end of the earth, or of this vast continent in which we live.
Upon the sea; or, in the sea, i.e. in the islands of the sea, which are here distinguished from the continent; and under those two heads are comprehended all the inhabitants of the world.
Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains; being girded with power:Settest fast the mountains; that they are not overthrown by floods, or winds, or earthquakes, or other natural or violent causes; which stability they have only from God’s providence, which sustains all persons and all things.
Being girded with power; this our God being able to do it, and that with one single word.
Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.The noise of their waves, when the sea is tempestuous, and threatens to swallow up ships and men that are in it, or to overflow the earth. And the tumult of the people; and as he stills the natural, so also he quiets the metaphorical seas, tumultuous and unruly people; for multitudes of people are oft called seas in prophetical writings, as Isaiah 17:12,13 Jer 51:42 Revelation 17:15.
They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens: thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice.The uttermost parts, to wit, of the earth, which is added to this word, Psalm 65:5.
Thy tokens, or signs; either,
1. At the sun, and moon, and stars, which are called signs, Genesis 1:14. But these are not matter of terror, but of delight to men; and the commonness and constancy of their courses makes most men neither fear nor much regard them. Or,
2. At the great and terrible judgments which God inflicts upon wicked men, and particularly upon the enemies of his people. Or rather,
3. At those terrible thunders, and lightnings, and earthquakes, and comets, or other strange meteors or works of God in the air; for he is here speaking of the natural works of God.
The outgoings of the morning and evening; by which he understands, either,
1. The east, from whence the morning, or the sun, the cause of it, goeth forth, as it is expressed, Psalm 19:6; and the west, from whence the evening or night is poetically supposed to come forth. So the meaning is, that God gives all the people of the world, from east to west, occasion to rejoice in the effects of his bounty and goodness to them. But if the psalmist had meant this, it is not probable that he would have expressed it in such a dark and doubtful phrase, which is never used in that sense; but rather by those known and usual expressions, from east to west, or, from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, which phrase he useth Psalm 1:1 113:3. Or rather,
2. The successive courses of the morning and evening; or of the sun and moon, which go forth at those times, thereby making the morning and evening; both which are said to rejoice poetically, because they give men occasion of rejoicing, which the sun or the morning doth, because it gives them opportunity for the despatch of business, and for the enjoyment of manifold recreations and delights; and the moon or evening doth so, because it invites men to that rest and sleep which is both refreshing and necessary for them. Thus this whole verse speaks of the natural works of God; the former clause of such as are extraordinary and terrible, the latter of such as are ordinary and delightful.
Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it.Visitest, to wit, in mercy, or with thy favour, as this word is oft used.
The earth; the whole earth, which is full of thy bounty. So he continues to declare the general providence of God to all men and people. Or rather the land, or this land, for here is an emphatical article. And so he comes from God’s general providence over all places and nations, to his particular and special providence over his people in the land of Canaan, whereof he gives one eminent and considerable instance, to wit. his giving them rain and fruitful seasons, and that after a time of drought and scarcity, to which it is not improbably supposed that this Psalm relates. And this may be the particular occasion for which the psalmist said that praise waited for God in Zion, Psalm 65:1. Waterest it: this is added to determine and explain the former general word, or to show how or wherein God visited it.
With the river of God; either,
1. With the rivers which God hath made in the several parts of the earth, to make it moist and fruitful; although the fertility of the greatest part of the earth doth not depend so much upon the rivers below, as upon the rains from above. Or,
2. With the river Jordan, which sometimes overflowed its banks. But that overflow reached only to a small part of the land. Or rather,
3. With showers of rain, which he very significantly calls a river for their plenty, and the river of God, i.e. of God’s immediate making and providing when he sees fit; which is opposed both to those little rivulets or channels which husbandmen or gardeners cut for the watering of their grounds; and to those greater rivers which run with a constant course, and by their little channels derived from them, or by their overflows, do water and enrich the earth, as Nilus did Egypt; to which these words may seem to have a special reference, especially if they be compared with Deu 11:10-12, &c.
Thou preparest; by this means thou preparest the earth for bringing forth corn, and ripenest the corn in the earth. Preparest them; for them, to wit, the inhabitants of the earth or land here mentioned, for their use and benefit.
Provided for it; or, disposed, or ordered, or prepared it, to wit, the earth, which without this would be hard and barren.
Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof.Thou settlest, to wit, in that condition which is fit for fruit. Or, thou bringest down; for the rain dissolves the high and hard clods of earth. When all is done, the fruitfulness of the earth must not be ascribed to the rain or sun, or any second causes, but to thy blessing alone.
Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.Thou, by thy powerful goodness, dost enrich and adorn all the seasons of the year with their proper fruits and blessings.
Thy paths; the clouds, upon which God is frequently said to walk or ride, as Job 36:28 38:26,27 Psa 104:3 Nahum 1:3; which sense is favoured by the next verse, where these paths are said to drop, &c.
Drop fatness; make the earth fat and fruitful.
They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side.They, God’s paths,
drop upon the pastures of the wilderness; which, though neglected by men, are furnished by God with food for wild beasts, which, being his creatures, he careth for by this means.
The little hills; the hills of Canaan, which for the generality of them were but small, if compared with the great and high mountains in divers parts of the world. He mentions
the hills, because these being most dry and parched with the sun, most need and are most refreshed with the rain.
Rejoice on every side; as being moistened and satisfied with rain in all parts and sides of them.
The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.This is added as the effect of these comfortable rains, that they fill the pastures with grass for cattle, and the valleys (which he mentions as the most fruitful places, though he doth not exclude the rest) with corn for the use of man.
They shout for joy, they also sing, i.e. they are abundantly satisfied with thy goodness, and in their manner sing forth the praises and declare the goodness of their Creator and Benefactor. Compare Psalm 147:8. Such passions or actions as these are oft figuratively ascribed to lifeless creatures, both in sacred and profane poetical writings; which are said to rejoice or mourn, &c, when their condition is such as calls for rejoicing or mourning, and would cause them to do so, if they were capable of such actions