Psalm 68:17
The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(17) The chariots.—As the text stands, this verse can only be brought into harmony with the context by a certain violence to grammar. Its literal reading is, God’s chariots, two myriads of thousands, and again myriads of thousands (literally, of repetition), the Lord among them, Sinai in holiness; which, by strict rule, must mean: “God’s chariots are innumerable, and the Lord rides in them to Sinai, into the holy place.” But this rendering is quite against the whole tenor of the passage, which is descriptive of a march from, not to, Sinai. Hence some suggest the rendering, “The Lord is among them—a Sinai in holiness,” meaning that Zion has become Sinai, a common enough figure in poetry (comp. In medio Tibure Sardinia est—Mart. 4:60), but only discovered here by a roundabout process. There can hardly be a question as to the propriety of the emendation suggested by Dr. Perowne, The Lord is with them; He has come from Sinai into the holy place. (Comp. Deuteronomy 32:2, which was undoubtedly in the poet’s mind.)

Of angels.—This rendering arose from a confusion of the word which means repetition with a word which means shining. LXX., “of flourishing ones”; Vulg., “of rejoicing ones.” But the mistake is a happy one, and Milton’s sonorous lines have well caught the feeling and music of the Hebrew:—

“About His chariots numberless were poured

Cherub and seraph, potentates and thrones,

And virtues, winged spirits and chariots winged,

From the armoury of God, where stand of old

Myriads.” Paradise Lost, vii. 196.

Psalm 68:17. The chariots of God are twenty thousand — Nor let the heathen boast of their hosts or armies, or of the multitude of their chariots, wherein chiefly their strength consists; for in Zion there are ten thousand times more, even innumerable hosts of angels, who attend upon God, to do his pleasure, and to fight for him and for his people. Twenty thousand here stands for an innumerable company, a certain number being put for an uncertain. The Lord is among them — And here is not only the presence of the angels, but of the great and blessed God himself; in Sinai as in the holy place — God is no less gloriously, though less terribly, present here than he was in Sinai, when, attended with thousands of his angels, he solemnly appeared there to deliver the law. Hebrew, סיני בקדשׁ, sinai bakodesh, literally, Sinai is in the sanctuary, or holy place, which is a poetical, and a very emphatical expression, and very pertinent to this place. For, having advanced Zion above all other hills, he now equals it to that venerable hill of Sinai, which the divine majesty honoured with his glorious presence. Here, says he, you have, in some sort, mount Sinai itself, namely, all the glories and privileges of it, the presence of Jehovah, attended with his angels, and the same law and covenant, yea, and a greater privilege than Sinai had, to wit, the Lord descending from heaven into a human body, as appears by his ascending thither again, which the next verse describes. For here the psalmist seems evidently to be transported by the prophetic spirit, from the narration of those external successes and victories, of which he had been speaking in the former part of the Psalm, unto the prediction of higher and more glorious things, even of the coming of the Messiah, and of the happy and transcendent privileges and blessings accruing to mankind thereby. And the connection of this new matter with the former is sufficiently apparent. For the preference of Zion to other places having been stated, Psalm 68:15-16, he now proves its excellence by an invincible argument; it was the place to which the Lord of hosts himself, the Messiah, God manifest in the flesh, was to come; and, when he came, was to be attended by a multitude of angels, celebrating his birth, ministering to him in his temptation, attesting his resurrection, and accompanying him in his ascension.

68:15-21 The ascension of Christ must here be meant, and thereto it is applied, Eph 4:8. He received as the purchase of his death, the gifts needful for the conversion of sinners, and the salvation of believers. These he continually bestows, even on rebellious men, that the Lord God might dwell among them, as their Friend and Father. He gave gifts to men. Having received power to give eternal life, the Lord Jesus bestows it on as many as were given him, Joh 17:2. Christ came to a rebellious world, not to condemn it, but that through him it might be saved. The glory of Zion's King is, that he is a Saviour and Benefactor to all his willing people, and a consuming fire to all that persist in rebellion against him. So many, so weighty are the gifts of God's bounty, that he may be truly said to load us with them. He will not put us off with present things for a portion, but will be the God of our salvation. The Lord Jesus has authority and power to rescue his people from the dominion of death, by taking away the sting of it from them when they die, and giving them complete victory over it when they rise again. The crown of the head, the chief pride and glory of the enemy, shall be smitten; Christ shall crush the head of the serpent.The chariots of God - The meaning of this verse is, that God is abundantly able to maintain his position on Mount Zion; to defend the place which he had selected as his abode. Though it has less natural strength than many other places have - though other hills and mountains, on account of their natural grandeur, may be represented as looking on this with contempt, as incapable of defense, yet he who has selected it is fully able to defend it. He is himself encompassed with armies and chariots of war; thousands of angels guard the place which he has chosen as the place of his abode. "Chariots," usually two-wheeled vehicles, often armed with scythes attached to their axles, were among the most powerful means of attack or defense in ancient warfare. See Psalm 20:7, note; Psalm 46:9, note; Isaiah 31:1, note; Isaiah 37:24, note; Compare Exodus 14:7; Joshua 17:16; Judges 4:15.

Are twenty thousand - A closer version is "two myriads," or twice ten thousand. The original word is in the dual form. The language is designed to denote a very great number. A myriad was a great number; the idea here is that even "that" great number was doubled.

Even thousands of angels - Margin, "many thousands." The Hebrew is, "thousands repeated," or "multiplied." There is in the Hebrew no mention of angels. The Septuagint and the Vulgate render it, "thousands of the rejoicing;" that is, thousands of happy attendants. The original, however, would most naturally refer to the chariots, as being multiplied by thousands.

The Lord is among them - The real strength, after all, is not in Zion itself, or in the chariots of the Lord surrounding it, but in the Lord himself. "He" is there as the Head of the host; He, as the Protector of his chosen dwelling-place.

As in Sinai, in the holy place - literally, "The Lord is among them; Sinai, in the sanctuary." The idea seems to be, that even Sinai with all its splendor and glory - the Lord himself with all the attending hosts that came down on Sinai - seemed to be in the sanctuary, the holy place on Mount Zion. All that there was of pomp and grandeur on Mount Sinai when God came down with the attending thousands of angels, was really around Mount Zion for its protection and defense.

17. and, to the assertion of God's purpose to make it His dwelling, is added evidence of His protecting care. He is described as in the midst of His heavenly armies—

thousands of angels—literally, "thousands of repetitions," or, "thousands of thousands"—that is, of chariots. The word "angels" was perhaps introduced in our version, from De 33:2, and Ga 3:19. They are, of course, implied as conductors of the chariots.

as … Sinai, in the holy place—that is, He has appeared in Zion as once in Sinai.

The chariots of God, i.e. the hosts or armies (whereof chariots were a great and eminent part in those times and places) which attend upon God to do his pleasure, and to fight for him and for his people.

Twenty thousand, i.e. an innumerable company; a certain number being put for an uncertain, as Psalm 3:6 91:7, and in many other places.

The Lord is among them; here is not only the presence of the angels, but of the great and blessed God himself. And here the psalmist seems to be transported by the prophetical spirit, from the narration of those external successes and victories of which he had been speaking in the former part of the Psalm, unto the prediction of higher and more glorious things, even of the coming of the Messiah, and of the happy and transcendent privileges and blessings accruing to mankind by it, described in the next verse. And the connexion of this new matter with the former is sufficiently evident. For having preferred Zion before other hills, Psalm 68:15,16, he now proves its excellency by an invincible argument, because this is the place to which the Lord of hosts himself, the Messiah, God manifested in the flesh, was to come, as is manifest from Psalm 2:6 90:2 Isaiah 2:3 28:16, compared with 1 Peter 2:6 Isaiah 59:20, compared with Romans 11:26, and many other places of Scripture. And when he did come into the world, he was attended with a multitude of holy angels, which celebrated his birth, Luke 2:13,14.

As in Sinai, in the holy place; God is no less gloriously, though less terribly, present here than he was in Sinai, when the great God, attended with thousands of his angels, solemnly appeared there to deliver the law. Heb. Sinai is in the sanctuary, or holy place; which is a poetical and a very emphatical expression, and very pertinent to this place. For having advanced Zion above all other hills, he now equals it to that venerable hill of Sinai, which the Divine Majesty honoured with his glorious presence. Here, saith he, you have in some sort Mount Sinai itself, to wit, all the glories and privileges of it, the presence of Jehovah attended with his angels, and the same law and covenant, yea, and a greater privilege than Sinai had, to wit, the Lord Jehovah descending from heaven into a human body, as appears by his ascending thither again, which the next verse describes, and visibly coming into his own temple, as it was prophesied concerning him, Malachi 3:1.

The chariots of God are twenty thousand,.... By which are meant the angels, as the following clause shows; called "chariots", because they have appeared in such a form, 2 Kings 2:11; and because, like chariots of war, they are the strength and protection of the Lord's people; and because of their swiftness in doing his work; and because they are for his honour and glory: they are the chariots of God, in which he rides about the world doing his will; they are the chariots in which Christ ascended up to heaven, and in which he will descend at the last day; and in which he now fetches the souls of his people to him at death, and will make use of them at the resurrection to gather them to him, when their bodies are raised by him: their number is very great, and in other places is mentioned as greater, Daniel 7:10; Christ speaks of twelve legions of them, Matthew 26:53; there is a multitude of them, and they are said to be even innumerable, Luke 2:13; which is observed, both for the glory of God, and for the safety of his people: even "thousands of angels"; the word for "angels" is only used in this place; Kimchi and Ben Melech take it to be one of the names of angels by which they were called: some derive it from a word which signifies "peaceable and quiet"; as expressive of the tranquil state in which they are in heaven, always beholding the face of God there: others from a word which signifies "sharp", as Jarchi; and so refers to their being the executioners of God's wrath and vengeance on men, and alluding to a sort of chariots with sharp hooks used in war: others from a word which signifies to "second"; these being the second, or next to God, the chief princes; or, as Aben Ezra, it denotes the number of angels, even "two thousand"; so the Targum,

"the chariots of God are two myriads (or twenty thousand) of burning fires, two thousand of angels lead them;''

the Lord is among them as in Sinai, in the holy place; that is, at the head of them, being their Governor and Commander, at whose beck they are, and ready to do his will; and he was among them when he ascended to heaven, as it follows, being carried up by them; as he was among them at Sinai, when the law was given; for Christ was there then, Acts 7:38; and attended with ten thousands of his holy angels, by whom the law was ordained, spoken, and given, Deuteronomy 33:2, Hebrews 2:2; which Sinai is called the holy place, from the presence of God there, and the law given from it: or else the sense is, that Christ is among the angels as in Sinai of old; so in the holy place, in Sion his holy hill, the church under the Gospel dispensation, where there are an innumerable company of angels, Hebrews 12:22; according to the construction of the word in the Hebrew text, it seems as if Sinai was in the holy place, the inside of it being of cedar, like the Shittim wood that grew about Sinai (l); or rather the worship commanded and directed to on mount Sinai was performed in it.

(l) Vid. Texelii Phoenix, l. 3. c. 7. p. 281.

The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
17. The chariots of God are in myriads, yea thousands upon thousands.

God is represented as entering Zion in triumph with a vast retinue of the heavenly hosts. His chariots are not simply ‘twice ten thousand’ but ‘counted by tens of thousands’ (this is the idiomatic force of the dual termination), explained further as ‘thousands of repetition,’ i.e. thousands upon thousands. Cp. Daniel 7:10. The A.V. angels is traceable ultimately to the paraphrase of the Targ., suggested by such passages as Deuteronomy 33:2, but resting on no philological basis. The LXX χιλιάδες εὐθηνούντων, Vulg. millia laetantium, ‘thousands of joyous ones,’ presumes a slightly different reading, but was probably intended to give the same meaning.

the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place] Or, in the sanctuary (R.V.); or in holiness. But as the words as in are not in the text, the rendering Sinai is in the sanctuary (R.V. marg.), or, It is Sinai in holiness, is preferable. With either rendering the sense will be substantially the same. The glory and majesty which were revealed at Sinai are now transferred to God’s new abode. He comes surrounded as it were by an environment of holiness. Cp. Deuteronomy 33:2. For the use of the name of a place to convey all the associations of the place cp. Micah 6:5, where “remember from Shittim unto Gilgal” means “remember all that happened there and in the interval.”

Many commentators adopt a slight emendation of the text, and read The Lord is come from Sinai into the sanctuary (or, in holiness), a reminiscence of Deuteronomy 33:2. From Sinai, the scene of His first great self-revelation to Israel, He comes to Zion, which He has chosen for His permanent abode. But the corruption of the text if it is faulty must be anterior to all existing versions: and the proposed reading has a somewhat prosaic ring.

Verse 17. - The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels. Another abrupt transition. The psalmist sees God move from Sinai, where he had represented him as present in ver. 8, into the sanctuary of Mount Zion. He is, of course, accompanied by his angelic host. This is described as a host of chariots (comp. 2 Kings 6:17) -twenty thousand in number, and "thousands of repetition" - or thousands multiplied by thousands, as Hengstenberg understands the phrase (comp. Daniel 7:10). The Lord (Jehovah) is among them; or, "in their midst." As in Sinai, in the holy place; rather, Sinai is in the sanctuary. The glories of Sinai are, as it were, transferred thither. Psalm 68:17This victory of Israel over the kings of the Gentiles gives the poet the joyful assurance that Zion is the inaccessible dwelling-place of Elohim, the God of the heavenly hosts. The mention of Zalmon leads him to mention other mountains. He uses the mountains of Bashan as an emblem of the hostile powers east of Jordan. These stand over against the people of God, as the mighty mountains of Bashan rising in steep, only slightly flattened peaks, to little hill-like Zion. In the land on this side Jordan the limestone and chalk formation with intermingled strata of sandstone predominates; the mountains of Bashan, however, are throughout volcanic, consisting of slag, lava, and more particularly basalt (basanites), which has apparently taken its name from Bashan (Basan).

(Note: This is all the more probable as Semitism has no proper word for basalt; in Syria it is called hag'ar aswad, "black stone.")

As a basalt range the mountains of Bashan are conspicuous among other creations of God, and are therefore called "the mountain of Elohim:" the basalt rises in the form of a cone with the top lopped off, or even towers aloft like so many columns precipitous and rugged to sharp points; hence the mountains of Bashan are called הר גּבננּים, i.e., a mountain range (for הר, as is well known, signifies both the single eminence and the range of summits) of many peaks equals a many-peaked mountain; גּבנן is an adjective like רענן, אמלל. With this boldly formed mass of rock so gloomily majestic, giving the impression of antiquity and of invincibleness, when compared with the ranges on the other side of unstable porous limestone and softer formations, more particularly with Zion, it is an emblem of the world and its powers standing over against the people of God as a threatening and seemingly invincible colossus. The poet asks these mountains of Bashan "why," etc.? רצד is explained from the Arabic rṣd, which, in accordance with its root Arab. rṣ, signifies to cleave firmly to a place (firmiter inhaesit loco), properly used of a beast of prey couching down and lying in wait for prey, of a hunter on the catch, and of an enemy in ambush; hence then: to lie in wait for, lurk, ἐνεδρεύειν, craftily, insidiose (whence râṣid, a lier-in-wait, tarraṣṣud, an ambush), here: to regard enviously, invidiose. In Arabic, just as in this instance, it is construed as a direct transitive with an accusative of the object, whereas the original signification would lead one to look for a dative of the object (רצד ל), which does also really occur in the common Arabic. Olewejored is placed by גבננים, but what follows is not, after all, the answer: "the mountain - Elohim has chosen it as the seat of His throne," but ההר is the object of the interrogative clause: Quare indiviose observatis, montes cacuminosi, hunc montem (δεικτικῶς: that Zion yonder), quem, etc. (an attributive clause after the determinate substantive, as in Psalm 52:9; Psalm 89:50, and many other instances, contrary to the Arabic rule of style). Now for the first time, in Psalm 68:17, follows that which is boastfully and defiantly contrasted with the proud mountains: "Jahve will also dwell for ever;" not only that Elohim has chosen Zion as the seat of His throne, it will also continue to be the seat of His throne, Jahve will continue to dwell [there] for ever. Grace is superior to nature, and the church superior to the world, powerful and majestic as this may seem to be. Zion maintains its honour over against the mountains of Bashan.

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