O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: because his mercy endureth for ever.
Verse 1. - O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good because his mercy endureth for ever (comp. Psalm 106:1, and the comment ad loc.).
Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.
Verse 2. - Let Israel now say, that his mercy endureth forever. (For the triple division of the people made in this and the next two verses -
(2) house of Aaron,
(3) those who fear the Lord - see Psalm 115:9-11, and 12, 13.)
The nature of the division is considered in the comment on Psalm 115:11.
Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endureth for ever.
Verse 3. - Let the house of Aaron now say, that his mercy endureth forever. Let the priests endorse what the people generally have declared, that God's mercy is ever lasting.
Let them now that fear the LORD say, that his mercy endureth for ever.
Verse 4. - Let them now that fear the Lord say, that his mercy endureth forever. Let the real Israel, the true worshippers of Jehovah, those who worship him in spirit and in truth, set their seal also to the great confession, and solemnly sanction what the people and the priests have done.
I called upon the LORD in distress: the LORD answered me, and set me in a large place.
Verse 5. - I called upon the Lord in distress; literally, from the strait place; i.e. from the straits in which I was. It is generally agreed that the Babylonian captivity is intended. The nation had called to God in its distress by the mouth of Daniel (Daniel 9:4-19) and of other holy men. The Lord answered me, and set me in a large place; literally, the Lord answered me on the open plain. The idea is, "The Lord gave me enlargement" - took me out of my straits - "set my feet in a large room" (Psalm 31:8).
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?
Verse 6. - The Lord is on my side. "At this point the speaker transfers his point of view into the past; he is once more fear less in the midst of foes" (Cheyne). I will not fear (comp. Psalm 23:4; Psalm 27:1; Psalm 56:4, etc.). What can man do unto me? Man is powerless against God. "If God be for us [i.e. on our side], who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31).
The LORD taketh my part with them that help me: therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me.
Verse 7. - The Lord taketh my part with them that help me; literally, the Lord is on my side among my helpers (comp. Psalm 54:4). Therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me (comp. Psalm 54:7; Psalm 59:10).
It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man.
Verse 8. - It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man (comp. Psalm 62:8, 9). Israel, on its return from the Captivity, had begun by putting a good deal of trust in its human helpers, as Cyrus and the other friendly heathen mentioned in Ezra 1:4-6; Ezra 3:7. But this help, after a little time, had failed them (Ezra 4:1-24), and they had found themselves in great difficulties.
It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.
Verse 9. - It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes. The "princes" after Cyrus had proved "broken reeds," and, instead of favoring Israel, had favored Israel's enemies (Ezra 4:6-24). At last Darius had done them justice, but it was felt that no sure dependence could be placed either on him or on his successors. Jehovah alone was Israel's safe ground of confidence, He "would not fail them, nor forsake them" (Joshua 1:5).
All nations compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD will I destroy them.
Verse 10. - All nations compassed me about. This is, of course, hyperbole. But it was a fact that all, or almost all, the nations among whom the Israelites dwelt were at all times hostile to them, and sought their destruction. But in the Name of the Lord will I destroy them; or, "I will mow them down" (comp. Job 24:24).
They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about: but in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.
Verse 11. - They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about (comp. Psalm 88:17). The special compassing about alluded to is probably that in the time of Nebuchadnezzar, when not only the Babylonians but the Syrians, the Moabites, the Ammonites, and the Edomites took part in hostilities against Israel (2 Kings 24:2; Psalm 137:7). But in the Name of the Lord I will destroy them. The threefold repetition of this trenchant phrase (vers. 10, 11, 12) lends it vast additional force. It is no casual utterance, no mere wish, or thought begotten of a wish, but a deep and firm conviction.
They compassed me about like bees; they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the LORD I will destroy them.
Verse 12. - They compassed me about like bees; i.e. in vast numbers, and with intense energy, and a furious desire to injure (comp. Deuteronomy 1:44; and the powerful description of Virgil, 'Georg.,' 4:236-238). They are quenched as the fire of thorns. Their fury dies away and goes out suddenly, like a fire kindled among thorns, which blazes up with vast heat and noise, but in a short time dies down and disappears. For in the Name of the Lord I will destroy them (see the comment on ver. 11).
Thou hast thrust sore at me that I might fall: but the LORD helped me.
Verse 13. - Thou hast thrust lore at me that I might fall; rather, thou didst thrust (Revised Version). The psalmist recalls the past, and throws himself, as it were, once more into the midst of the struggle. Thou - mine enemy, Babylon - didst make s desperate onset upon me, fully intending my destruction. But the Lord helped me. Frustrated thy purpose - preserved the life, the national life, which thou aimedst at destroying, and so did most effectually "help me."
The LORD is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.
Verse 14. - The Lord is my strength and my song, and is become my salvation. The deliverance was such that no words but those of the Song of Moses (Exodus 15:2) could fitly celebrate it.
The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous: the right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly.
Verse 15. - The voice of rejoicing and salvation is in the tabernacles of the righteous (comp. Ezra 6:16, 22). "Tabernacles," or "tents," is continually used by the sacred writers as a synonym for "dwellings." The use of the expression here by no means implies that the Israelites of the time were actually living in tents. The right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly (scrap. Exodus 15:6, 12). God's right hand was at the time stretched out to protect and preserve Israel.
The right hand of the LORD is exalted: the right hand of the LORD doeth valiantly.
Verse 16. - The right hand of the Lord is exalted (compare the parallel expression in Exodus 15:6, "Thy right hand, O God, is become glorious in power"). When God's right hand effects a deliverance, it gets, as it were, additional glory to itself. The right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly. So, already, in ver. 16. Repetition is a special characteristic of this psalm (see vers. 1, 2, 3, 4; vers. 8, 9; vers. 10-12, etc.).
I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD.
Verse 17. - I shall not die, but live. The psalmist speaks, not in his own person, but in the name of his nation. They had been brought very near to extinction; but now the danger was past. God had given them "a reviving" (Ezra 9:8, 9); and they felt that henceforth they would "live." And declare the works of the Lord. They would employ the new life granted them in "declaring God's works" (see Psalm 40:5, 10; Psalm 96:3; Psalm 145:4-6); i.e. they would witness to all men of "the might of his marvelous acts," and "abundantly utter the memory of his great goodness."
The LORD hath chastened me sore: but he hath not given me over unto death.
Verse 18. - The Lord hath chastened me sore. By the long sufferings of the Captivity. But he hath not given me over unto death (see the comment on ver. 17).
Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD:
Verse 19. - Open to me the gates of righteousness. The great gate of the temple being now reached, admission to the interior is requested. The gates are called "the gates of righteousness,"
(1) as gates which none but the righteous ought to enter (see the next verse); and
(2) as gates through which access is gained to the sanctuary of him who alone is truly righteous, and the source of all righteousness in others. I will go into them, and I will praise the Lord. Praise could be given to God any where; but it was most appropriately offered "in the courts of the Lord's house, even in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem" (Psalm 116:19).
This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter.
Verse 20. - This gate of the Lord, into which the righteous shall enter; rather, this is the gate of the Lord: the righteous [and they alone] shall enter by it. "This verse seems to stand apart - a solo, chanted by a voice out of the temple gate" (Kay). Though sinners doubtless sometimes entered (2 Kings 11:13; 2 Chronicles 26:16-20; John 2:14), none but the righteous had any right to enter.
I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.
Verse 21. - I will praise thee; for thou hast heard me. The chant of the procession as it enters - a prolongation of the strain begun in ver. 19. And art become my salvation (comp. ver. 14).
The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
Verse 22. - The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. The primary and literal meaning seems to be - " Israel, which the great of the world, those who think to arrange the world ac cording to their own ideas, have rejected and would fain have cast aside, has, nevertheless, despite their rejection, attained to eminence, and been advanced, by the course of events, into such a position, that it may be regarded as the head corner-stone - the most important of all the nations of the world." Any Messianic reference is secondary and subordinate.
This is the LORD'S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.
Verse 23. - This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This fresh elevation of Israel to importance - especially to such great importance - can only be attributed to the work of Divine providence. It is "the Lord's doing" - literally, "from the Lord" - and is one of the most marvelous events of history.
This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.
Verse 24. - This is the day which the Lord hath made. The thanksgiving day is one which has been fore-ordained of God, and brought into existence by him for a special purpose. We will therefore carry out God's purpose, and rejoice and be glad in it.
Save now, I beseech thee, O LORD: O LORD, I beseech thee, send now prosperity.
Verse 25. - Save now, I beseech thee, O Lord; or, "we beseech thee." The interjectional אנא is as suitable to the several speakers as to one. O Lord, I beseech thee, send now prosperity; i.e. continue to save, continue to send prosperity. Israel feels its constant dependence upon God, and that if the Divine care were remitted for a day, or for an hour, all would be lost. Tears, as Professor Cheyne observes, continually mingle with Israel's laughter.
Blessed be he that cometh in the name of the LORD: we have blessed you out of the house of the LORD.
Verse 26. - Blessed be he that cometh in the Name of the Lord. Once more a voice issues from the interior of the temple (comp. ver. 20). The priestly choir there stationed to receive the procession, blesses it as coming "in the Name of the Lord;" i.e. for a religious purpose, and with pious intentions. We have blessed you, they say (or, rather perhaps, we bless you) out of the house of the Lord. "The house of the Lord is the fountain and the treasury of all blessing" (Hengstenberg).
God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.
Verse 27. - God is the Lord, which hath showed us light. Having received the priestly benediction, the processionists resume their strain. They have entered within the courts; they are approaching the altar of sacrifice; they have brought their offering. "Jehovah," they say, "is God, and hath given us light" (see the Revised Version). That is, he has enlightened our spirits to see and acknowledge his mercies; or, perhaps, he has led us, as he did the people, by a pillar of fire in the wilderness; and now we stand before the altar with our offering - receive it at our hands, ye priests-and bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar. So shalt the act of thanksgiving be complete, and the solemn service ended. The fanciful exposition of Luther, lately revived by Professor Cheyne, will scarcely approve itself to critics generally.
Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee.
Verse 28. - Thou art my God, and I will praise thee: thou art my God, I will exalt thee. This is the acknowledgment made by each and all, and probably repeated many times, while the sacrifice is being consumed upon the altar.
O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.