Verse 1. - I will love thee, O Lord, my Strength. This opening is very remarkable. The verb translated "I will love" expresses the very tenderest affection, and is elsewhere never used to denote the love of man towards God, but only that of God towards man. The entire verse, moreover, is withdrawn from the "second edition" of the psalm (2 Samuel 22.) - which was perhaps prepared for liturgical use - as too sacred and too private to suit a public occasion.
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
Verse 2. - The Lord is my Rock; or, my Cliff - my Sela - an expression used commonly of Petra. And my Fortress (comp. Psalm 144:2). Not only a natural stronghold, but one made additionally strong by art. And my Deliverer. A living Protector, not a mere inanimate defence. My God, my Strength; rather, my Rock, as the same word (tsur) is translated in Exodus 17:6; Exodus 33:21, 22; Deuteronomy 32:4, 15, 18, 31; 1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 23:3; Isaiah 26:4. It is the word from which the strong city, Tyro, derived its. name. In whom I will trust (comp. Dent. 32:37). My Buckler (comp. Genesis 15:1, where God announced himself as Abraham's "Shield;" and see also Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalm 3:2; Psalm 5:12; Psalm 84:11; Psalm 119:114; Psalm 144:2). The Horn also of my salvation (comp. Luke 1:69). The horn is the emblem at once of strength and of dignity. A "horn of salvation" is a source of excellency and might, whence "salvation" or deliverance comes to those who trust in it. And my high Tower (comp. Psalm 9:9, with the comment ad loc.). It is remarked that God, in this passage, receives seven epithets, "the mystic number which in sacred things symbolizes perfection" (Delitzsch).
I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.
Verse 3. - I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised. Not so much a simple future, "I will call upon the Lord at some particular time," as a future of continuance, "I call, and will ever call, upon the Lord, worthy to be praised;" and so - i.e., so long as I call - shall I be saved from mine enemies (comp. Psalm 5:10, 12; Psalm 6:8-10; Psalm 10:15, 16, etc.).
The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid.
Verse 4. - The sorrows of death compassed me. Here begins the narrative of David's sufferings in the past. "'The sorrows' - or rather, 'the cords' - of death," he says, "encompassed me," or "coiled around me" (Kay). Death is represented as a hunter, who goes out with nets and cords, encompassing his victims and driving them into the toils. David's recollection is probably of the time when he was "hunted upon the mountains" by Saul (1 Samuel 26:20), and expected continually to be caught and put to death (1 Samuel 19:1; 1 Samuel 23:15; 1 Samuel 27:1). And the floods of ungodlymen made me afraid; literally, the torrents of Belial, or of ungodliness. The LXX. have χείμαῥῤοι, ἀνομίας. Streams of ungodly men, the myrmidons of Saul, cut him off from escape.
The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me.
Verse 5. - The sorrows of hell compassed me about; literally, the cords of Sheol, or Hades. Death and Hell are, both of them, personified, and made to join in the chase. The ensnaring nets are drawn nearer and nearer; at last the toils close in, the last cast is made, and the prey is taken. The snares of death prevented me; or, came upon me (Revised Version) - "took me by surprise" (Kay).
In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him, even into his ears.
Verse 6. - In my distress I called upon the Lord, and cried unto my God. At this supreme moment, when he is entangled in the snares, and on the point of being slain, the psalmist represents himself as invoking the aid of the Almighty. As HengstenBerg notes, "While the manifold distresses are united in the beginning of the verse into one great 'distress,' so the manifold Divine hearings and helps are united into a single grand hearing and help" - and, we may add, the manifold cries into one great cry. He heard my voice out of his temple; i.e. his tabernacle, since the temple was not yet built (comp. Psalm 5:7; Psalm 11:4); or perhaps, "out of heaven "(Cheyne). And my cry came before him, even into his ears (comp. Exodus 2:23, where the same word is used for the "cry" of the children of Israel in Egypt).
Then the earth shook and trembled; the foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken, because he was wroth.
Verse 7. - Then the earth shook and trembled; or, quailed and quaked (Kay, who thus expresses the assonance of the Hebrew vat-tig'ash vat-tir ash). The psalmist must not be understood literally. He does not mean that the deliverance came by earthquake, storm, and thunder, but describes the discomfiture and dismay of his opponents by a series of highly poetical images. In these he, no doubt, follows nature closely, and probably describes what he had seen, heard, and felt. The foundations also of the hills moved and were shaken. In violent earthquakes, the earth seems to rock to its foundations; mountain ranges are sometimes actually elevated to a height of several feet; rocks topple down; and occasionally there are earth-slips of enormous dimensions. Because he was wroth. God's anger against the psalmist's enemies produced the entire disturbance which he is describing.
There went up a smoke out of his nostrils, and fire out of his mouth devoured: coals were kindled by it.
Verse 8. - There went up a smoke out of his nostrils. Emissions of smoke are a common feature of volcanic disturbances, with which earthquakes are closely connected. The LXX. give, instead of "out of his nostrils," in his anger (ἐν ὀργῇ αὐτοῦ), which is better, since the Hebrew prefix בּ, "in," certainly cannot mean "out of." And fire out of his mouth devoured. Fire-balls are said to have accompanied some earthquakes, as especially that one by which Julian's design of rebuilding Jerusalem was frustrated. Coals were kindled by it. The fire-balls above spoken of are declared to have scorched and burnt the workmen employed by Julian (Amm. Marc., 23. 1).
He bowed the heavens also, and came down: and darkness was under his feet.
Verse 9. - He bowed the heavens also, and came down (comp. Psalm 145:5). In a storm the clouds do actually descend, and the whole heaven seems to be bowed down to earth. God is said to "come down" to earth whenever he delivers the oppressed, and takes vengeance on their oppressors (see Exodus 3:8; 2 Samuel 22:10; Psalm 144:5; Isaiah 64. I, 3, etc.). And darkness was under his feet. A deep darkness commonly accompanies both earthquake and storm. When God actually descended on Mount Sinai, it was amid thunders and lightnings, and "a thick cloud" (Exodus 19:16), elsewhere called "thick darkness" (Deuteronomy 5:22).
And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly: yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind.
Verse 10. - And he rode upon a cherub, and did fly. The imagery here transcends all experience, and scarcely admits of comment or explanation. God is represented as borne through the heavens, as he proceeds to execute his purposes, by the highest of his creatures, the cherubim. Elsewhere (Psalm 104:3) he sails through the sky supported on clouds. Yea, he did fly upon the wings of the wind; rather, he sped swiftly (Kay). The verb used is different from that translated "did fly" in the preceding verse. It is applied elsewhere especially to the eagle (Deuteronomy 28:49; Jeremiah 48:40; Jeremiah 49:22).
He made darkness his secret place; his pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies.
Verse 11. - He made darkness his secret place; i.e. he hid himself amid clouds and thick darkness. In executing his judgments he did not allow himself to be seen. God's action is always secret and inscrutable. His pavilion round about him were dark waters and thick clouds of the skies. The original runs as follows: "He made darkness his secret place - his pavilion round about him - dark waters, thick clouds of the skies." The whole forms one sentence, "his pavilion" being in apposition with "secret place," and the last clause, "dark waters, thick clouds of the skies," being exegetical of the "darkness" in the first clause. God's "pavilion," or "tent" (סבּה), is mentioned again in Psalm 27:5 and Psalm 31:20.
At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed, hail stones and coals of fire.
Verse 12. - At the brightness that was before him his thick clouds passed. The "brightness" intended is probably that of lightning. The "thick clouds" are riven and parted asunder for the lightning to burst forth. Then come, almost simultaneously, hail stones and coals of fire; i.e., hail like that which fell in Egypt before the Exodus (Exodus 9:22-34), when "there was hail, and fire mingled with the hail" (ver. 24) - a fire which "ran along upon the ground," or some very unusual electrical phenomenon (see the comment on Exodus in the ' Homiletic Commentary,' p. 208).
The LORD also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice; hail stones and coals of fire.
Verse 13. - The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Highest gave his voice. With the lightning came, necessarily, thunder, rolling along the heavens, and seeming like the voice of God (comp. Job 38:4, 5). Hail stones and coals of fire. The phrase is repeated for the sake of emphasis. The hail and the lightning are represented as conjointly the ministers of the Divine vengeance.
Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them; and he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them.
Verse 14. - Yea, he sent out his arrows, and scattered them. God's "arrows" are often spoken cf. Job felt them within him (Job 6:4). David has already said of them, that they are "ordained against the persecutors" (Psalm 7:13). We may understand by the expression any sharp pains, mental or bodily, which God sends. And he shot out lightnings, and discomfited them. The effect of the tempest of God's wrath is to "scatter" and "discomfit" the enemy (comp. Exodus 14:24). Instead of" and he shot out lightnings," our Revisers give, and lightnings manifold, which is perhaps better.
Then the channels of waters were seen, and the foundations of the world were discovered at thy rebuke, O LORD, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils.
Verse 15. - Then the channels of waters were seen. By "the channels of waters" seem to be meant the torrent-courses, so common in Palestine, especially on either side of Jordan, which convey into it the winter rains. These "were seen," lit up by the "lightnings manifold," having previously been in darkness (see vers. 9-11). At the same time, the foundations of the world were discovered. The earthquake (ver. 7) still continuing, the earth gaped in places, and the glare of the lightning enabled the eye to penetrate deep into the solid globe - so deep that it seemed to reach the "foundations." At thy rebuke, O Lord, at the blast of the breath of thy nostrils (comp. ver. 7, "because he was wroth").
He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.
Verse 16. - He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters. While destruction thus came upon David's enemies (vers. 12-14), God's protecting hand was stretched out to save David himself, who was carefully "taken" and tenderly "drawn" forth from among the "many waters," i.e. the dangers and difficulties which threatened him. Some commentators see in the words used - "he sent, he took me, he drew me" - a tacit reference to Exodus 2:5, 10, and, by implication, a sort of parallel between the deliverance of David from his foes and that of Moses from the waters of the Nile (Kay, Hengstenberg, 'Speaker's Commentary').
He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated me: for they were too strong for me.
Verse 17. - He delivered me from my strong enemy. This is generally understood of Saul. By the defeat of Gilboa, and its consequences (1 Samuel 31:1-4), God delivered David from the peril of death which hung over him so long as Saul lived. And from them which hated me. David's enemies among the courtiers of Saul were powerless without their master. Many, probably, fell in the battle; the rest sank into obscurity. For they were too strong for me. I must have succumbed to them had not God helped me.
They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my stay.
Verse 18. - They prevented me in the day of my calamity (comp. 1 Samuel 23:13-15; 1 Samuel 24:1-3; 1 Samuel 26:1-4, etc.). But the Lord was my Stay. God frustrated all the designs of David's foes, and prevented him from falling into their hands.
He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because he delighted in me.
Verse 19. - He brought me forth also into a large place (comp. Psalm 31:8; Psalm 118:5). By "a large place" is probably meant open ground, not encompassed by snares, or nets, or enemies in ambush. He delivered me, because he delighted in me. David now proceeds to explain the grounds of God's favour towards him. He begins by summing up all in a word, "God delighted in him." He then goes on to explain the causes of God's "delight" (vers. 20-26).
The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me.
Verse 20. - The Lord rewarded me according to my righteousness. David has spoken of his "righteousness" already in Psalm 7:8. We must not suppose him to mean absolute blamelessness, any more than Job means such blamelessness by his "integrity" (Job 27:5; Job 31:6). He means honesty of purpose, the sincere endeavour to do right, such conduct as brings about "the answer of a good conscience before God" (1 Peter 3:21). According to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me (comp. Job 27:9; Psalm 24:4). "Clean hands" are hands unstained by any wicked action.
For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God.
Verse 21. - For I have kept the ways of the Lord. Compare the statement of the young man whom Jesus "looked upon and loved' (Mark 10:21), "All these commandments have I observed from my youth" (ver. 20). And have not wickedly departed from my God. It is observed that the word translated by "departed wickedly" implies "wilful and persistent wickedness" ('Speaker's Commentary') - "an entire alienation from God" (Calvin). Not even in the humblest of the penitential psalms, when David is bewailing his great offence, does he use this verb of himself. He is an example to all men not to indulge in a false humility, nor employ phrases concerning himself which go beyond the truth.
For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me.
Verse 22. - For all his judgments were before me; i.e. "all his commandments" (compare the use of the same word (מִשׁפַט throughout the hundred and nineteenth psalm). And I did not put away his statutes from me. The wicked are said to "cast God's commandments behind their back" (1 Kings 14:9; Nehemiah 9:26; Psalm 50:17; Ezekiel 23:35). David declares that he had never so acted; he had kept God's statutes always well before him, had borne them in mind, and given heed to them.
I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity.
Verse 23. - I was also upright before him (compare what is said of David in 1 Kings 11:4; 1 Kings 14:8; 1 Kings 15:5). Like Job, he was "perfect and upright " - " one that feared God, and eschewed evil" (Job 1:1). And I kept myself from mine iniquity; i.e. from the sin to which I was especially tempted." (Kay compares the αὐπερίστατος ἁμαρτία of Hebrews 12:1.) But what sin this was, we have no means of determining. All that appears is that David had an inclination to some particular form of sin, against which he found it necessary to be continually upon his guard.
Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight.
Verse 24. - Therefore hath the Lord recompensed me according to my righteousness, according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight. Having set forth the particulars of his righteousness (vers. 21-23), the psalmist returns to his previous general statement (ver. 20), and emphatically reaffirms it.
With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt shew thyself upright;
Verses 25-28. - A short didactic digression is here interposed, extending the principles on which God has dealt with David and his enemies, to mankind generally (vers. 25-27); after which a return is made to Go&'s special dealings with David (ver. 28). Verse 25. - With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful. The main principle is that God will act towards men as they act towards him. If they are kindly, gracious, loving towards him - for this is what the word chasid means - he will be kindly, gracious, loving towards them, and vice versa, as explained in vers. 26, 27. With an upright man thou wilt show thyself upright; or, a perfect man (Revised Version). The word is the same as that used in Psalm 4:3; Psalm 12:1; Psalm 31:23; Psalm 34:6; Psalm 37:28, etc., and generally translated "godly," or, in the plural, "saints."
With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt shew thyself froward.
Verse 26. - With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt show thyself froward; rather, thou wilt show thyself adverse. The same root is not here used for the verb as for the adjective, as is done in the three preceding clauses. The reason is well explained in the 'Speaker's Commentary:' "In dealing with the good, God shows his approval by manifesting attributes similar or identical in essence; in dealing with the wicked, he exhibits attributes which are correlative - in just proportion to their acts," but not identical. God cannot "show himself froward" - he can only show himself opposed, antagonistic, an adversary. What the psalmist means to say is that, if men oppose and thwart God, he in return will oppose and thwart them. But they will act in a perverse spirit, he in a spirit of justice and righteousness.
For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks.
Verse 27. - For thou wilt save the afflicted people; i.e. the oppressed and down-trodden, who are assumed to be pious and God-fearing (comp. Psalm 10:12-14; Psalm 11:2, etc.). But wilt bring down high looks (comp. Psalm 101:5 and Proverbs 6:17). The fact of "pride going before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall," was noticed by the heathen of the ancient world, no less than by the" peculiar people." And both alike attributed the downfall of the proud to God. "Seest thou," says Herodotus, "how God with his lightning smites always the bigger animals, and will not suffer them to wax insolent, while those of a lesser bulk chafe him not? How likewise his bolts ever fall on the highest houses and the tallest trees? So plainly does he love to bring down everything that exalts itself. Thus ofttimes a mighty host is discomfited by a few men, when God in his jealousy sends panic or storm from heaven, and they perish in a way unworthy of them. For God allows no one to have high thoughts but himself" (vii. 10, § 5). But the heathen seem to have imagined that God envied the proud ones, and therefore cast them down.
For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness.
Verses 28-45. - As in the former narrative section (vers. 4-24) David seems to have had his earlier troubles in mind, so, in the present one, his troubles since he entered upon the kingdom seem especially to engage his thoughts. These consisted chiefly of wars with foreign enemies, in which, while he incurred many dangers, he was, upon the whole, eminently successful. Verse 28. - For thou wilt light my candle; rather, my lamp - the word generally used of the lamps supported by the seven-branched candelabrum of the tabernacle (see Exodus 25:37; Exodus 37:22, 23; Exodus 40:25). David himself is called "the lamp of Israel" in 2 Samuel 21:17. The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. The true lamp of David, which "enlightened his darkness," was "the light of God's countenance." While this shone upon him, his whole path was bright, and he himself, reflecting the Divine rays, was a lamp to others.
For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall.
Verse 29. - For by thee I have run through a troop. The military key-note is at once struck. Gedud (גְּדוּד) is a marauding band of light-armed troops sent out to plunder an enemy's country. David "ran through" such a "troop," when he pursued and defeated the Amalekites who had plundered and burnt Ziklag (1 Samuel 30:17). It is called three times a gedud (vers. 8 and 15 twice). And by my God have I leaped over a wall. Shur (שׁוּר) is a rare word for "wall," occurring in the Hebrew text only here and in Genesis 49:22, though used also of the walls of Jerusalem in the Chaldee of Ezra (Ezra 4:12, 13, 16). It may designate the walls of Jerusalem in this place, and David may intend to allude to his conquest of the stronghold of Zion from the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5:6, 7).
As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.
Verse 30. - As for God, his way is perfect (comp. Deuteronomy 32:4, "His work is perfect, for all his ways are judgment"). What God does, he does effectually; he does not have recourse to half-measures. The word of the Lord is tried; i.e. the promises of God are sure, they have been tested, and tried as by fire, and will never fail. He is a Buckler to all those that trust in him (comp. ver. 2).
For who is God save the LORD? or who is a rock save our God?
Verse 31. - For who is God save the Lord (see Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 32:39). As the one and only God, absolute confidence may be placed in Jehovah, who is able to protect and preserve to the uttermost all who serve him (comp. 2 Samuel 7:22-29). Or who is a Rock save our God? (comp. ver. 2; and see also Deuteronomy 32:4, 18, 30, 31; and Psalm 61:2).
It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
Verse 32. - It is God that girdeth me with strength (comp. ver. 39). And maketh my way perfect. Keeps me, i.e., in the right way - the way of his commandments.
He maketh my feet like hinds' feet, and setteth me upon my high places.
Verse 33. - He maketh my feet like hinds' feet (comp. 2 Samuel 2:18; 1 Chronicles 12:8; Habakkuk 3:19). The Israelites reckoned swiftness of foot, agility, and endurance among the highest of warlike qualities. These qualities were needed especially in the pursuit of defeated enemies; and the rapidity of David's conquests (2 Samuel 5:6-10; 2 Samuel 8:1-14; 2 Samuel 10:15-20) must be ascribed to them mainly. And setteth me upon my high places; i.e. establishes me in the strongholds that command my extensive territory, and give me secure possession of it, as Zion, Rabbath-Ammon, Damascus, Petra, perhaps Zobah, Rehob, and others.
He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms.
Verse 34. - He teacheth my hands to war, so that a bow of steel is broken by mine arms (comp. Psalm 144:1). "A bow of steel" is a mistranslation, since nechusha (נְחוּשָׁה) is not "steel," but "brass," or rather "bronze "-and bows of steel were unknown to the ancients. Compare the comment on Job 20:24 ('Homiletic Commentary,' p. 352).
Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great.
Verse 35. - Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation; i.e. in battle thou extendest over me the shield of thy protection. Nothing was more common in ancient warfare than for a warrior, while he was engaged in using his offensive weapons, especially the bow, to be protected from the missiles of the enemy by a comrade who held a shield before him. The Assyrian kings were constantly thus defended in battle, and it was even common for an ordinary archer to be similarly guarded (see ' Ancient Monarchies,' vol. 2. pp. 30, 32, 33, for illustrations). And thy right hand hath holden me up. The "right hand" is always spoken of as the arm of greatest strength (comp. Psalm 44:3; Psalm 45:4; Psalm 48:10; Psalm 60:5, etc.). And thy gentleness hath made me great; rather, thy condescension (Kay) - the quality in God which most nearly corresponds to humility in man. The word is not elsewhere used of God.
Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip.
Verse 36. - Thou hast enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip. Job often complained that God "hedged in his steps" (Job 3:23) and "fenced up his way" (Job 19:5), so that he had no liberty of movement. David enumerates among the blessings which he receives of God, the freedom which he enjoys (comp. Psalm 31:8). He is at liberty to go where he likes. and also his footsteps "do not slip." This is rather an independent clause than a consequence. Translate, and my ankles slip not.
I have pursued mine enemies, and overtaken them: neither did I turn again till they were consumed.
Verse 37. - I have pursued mine enemies and overtaken them (see 1 Samuel 30:8-17; 2 Samuel 8:1-13; 2 Samuel 10:6-18). Neither did I turn again till they were consumed. The greatest severities exercised by David seem to have been those against Edom (1 Kings 11:15, 16) and Ammon (2 Samuel 12:29-31). Otherwise he would seem not to have used, with any great harshness, his rights as a conqueror.
I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet.
Verse 38. - I have wounded them that they were not able to rise: they are fallen under my feet. It is remarkable that the nations which David subdued scarcely ever, while he lived, rose up again in revolt.
For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me.
Verse 39. - For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle. Having boasted of his own actions during the space of two verses (vers. 37, 38), David falls back upon his habitual acknowledgments, that all which he has done has been done wholly through the strength of the Divine arm, which has upheld him, sustained him, and given him the victory. Thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me; rather, thou hast bowed down mine adversaries under me (Hengstenberg, Kay, Cheyne).
Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; that I might destroy them that hate me.
Verse 40. - Thou hast also given me the necks of mine enemies; i.e. "thou hast made them turn their backs upon me in flight" (comp. Exodus 23:27, where the same expression is used). That I might destroy them that hate me. David must not be supposed to speak from personal animosity. He expresses himself as the king of God's people, bound to do his utmost to protect them, and to deliver them from the enemies who "hate" him only because he is the leader and champion of his countrymen. The neighbouring nations in David's time seem to have been bent on the total extirpation of the Hebrew people.
They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the LORD, but he answered them not.
Verse 41. - They cried, but there was none to save them: even unto the Lord, but he answered them not. It seems strange, at first sight, that the heathen enemies of David should "cry unto the Lord," i.e. to Jehovah; and hence some have been driven to suppose that a victory over domestic enemies is here interpolated into the series of foreign victories. But it seems better to explain, with Hengstenberg and the 'Speaker's Commentary,' that the heathen did sometimes, as a last resort, pray to a foreign god, whom they seemed to find by experience to be more powerful than their own (see Jonah 1:14). Jehovah was known by name, as the God of the Israelites, to the surrounding nations. Mesha mentions him upon the Moabite Stone; and Sennacherib declared, by the mouth of Rabshakeh, "Am I come up without the Lord against this place to destroy it? The Lord (Jehovah) said to me, Go up against this land, and destroy it" (2 Kings 18:25).
Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind: I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets.
Verse 42. - Then did I beat them small as the dust before the wind (comp. Psalm 35:5). The enemy were beaten and dispersed so that they seemed driven as dust before the wind. I did cast them out as the dirt in the streets. They were made no account of, treated with as little ceremony as the clay in the streets. Language of utter contempt.
Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people; and thou hast made me the head of the heathen: a people whom I have not known shall serve me.
Verse 43. - Thou hast delivered me from the strivings of the people. David now approaches his conclusion. In one verse he at once sums up his past deliverances and anticipates fresh glories. God has delivered him from the strivings of those who were hostile to him among his own people (see vers. 4-18), and has also given him victory over the heathen. In the future he will do even more. And thou hast made me the head of the heathen. The antithesis between "people" (עָם) and "heathen," or "nations" (גויָם), is unmistakable. The long series of David's victories have made him "head" over the latter. This is less clearly seen in the history of David's reign than in the description given of the state of the kingdom inherited from David by Solomon (1 Kings 4:21, 24). A people whom I have not known shall serve me. It is not clear that this was ever fulfilled literally in the person of David, and, we are entitled to explain it as a Messianic prophecy, parallel with that of Psalm 2:8.
As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me: the strangers shall submit themselves unto me.
Verse 44. - As soon as they hear of me, they shall obey me; literally, at the hearing of the ear. But the meaning is that given in the Authorized Version. The words aptly describe the conversion of the Gentiles (see Acts 10:34-48; Acts 13:48; Acts 17:11; Acts 18:8, etc.). The strangers shall submit themselves unto me; literally, the sons of the stranger shall pay court to me - not necessarily a false court, as Hengstenberg and others suppose, but, as Dr. Kay explains, an "obsequious and servile homage."
The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places.
Verse 45. - The strangers shall fade away, and be afraid out of their close places. Converts are represented as coming into the Church, not merely from love, but partly from fear. The kingdom of the Redeemer at once attracts and alarms. So Isaiah says, "The nation and kingdom that will not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted... . The sons also of them that afflict thee shall come kneeling unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet, and they shall call thee, The city of the Holy One of Israel" (Isaiah 60:12-14; see also Micah 7:16, 17).
The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my salvation be exalted.
Verses 46-50. - This glorious and triumphant psalm concludes with a solemn ascription of praise, blessing, and thanksgiving to Almighty God - partly recapitulation of what has preceded (vers. 47, 48), partly additional (vers. 46, 49, 50). Terms of praise are accumulated, and the whole is made to culminate in a Messianic burst, where David is swallowed up in his "Seed;" and the "Anointed King" presented to our view is rather the antitype than the type - rather Christ Jesus than the son of Jesse. Verse 46. - The Lord liveth. God was known to Israel as "the living God" from the time of Moses (Deuteronomy 5:26). The epithet exalted him above all other so-called gods, who were not living (comp. 2 Kings 19:4; Isaiah 37:4, 17; Daniel 6:26). But it had also a very precious, absolute meaning. God's life was the source of man's. It was through God (who had life in himself) breathing into man the breath of life that man became a living soul (Genesis 2:7). Hence "the living God" (Psalm 42:2) is "the God of our life" (Psalm 42:8). And blessed be my Rock (see vers. 1, 31). In blessing "his Rock," David blesses God for his qualities of firmness, steadfastness, and trustworthiness. And let the God of my salvation be exalted. "The God of my salvation" is a favourite phrase with David (see Psalm 25:5; Psalm 27:9; Psalm 38:22; Psalm 51:14; Psalm 88:1). Other writers use it rarely. When David prays that the God of his salvation (i.e. the God who continually saves him and preserves him) may be "exalted," he probably desires that he may be praised and honoured of all men.
It is God that avengeth me, and subdueth the people under me.
Verse 47. - It is God that avengeth me; rather, even the God avengeth me (comp. vers. 3, 6, 14, 17, etc.). And subdueth the people under me; rather, the peoples; i.e. the nations (comp. vers. 37-42).
He delivereth me from mine enemies: yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man.
Verse 48. - He delivereth me from mine enemies. The "deliverance" was especially from domestic foes (see vers. 17, 19). His foreign foes seem never to have brought David into much peril. Yea, thou liftest me up above those that rise up against me. The "lifting up" was above enemies of both kinds (see ver. 43). Thou hast delivered me from the violent man (comp. ver. 17). There is no reason to doubt that in both places Saul is intended. He was at once David's "enemy," and a "man of violence." Were the question open otherwise, it would be closed by the statement in the title.
Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and sing praises unto thy name.
Verse 49. - Therefore will I give thanks unto thee, O Lord, among the heathen. As, in some sense, "the head of the heathen" (ver. 43), David was bound to offer prayer, and praise, and thanksgiving "among them," if it were only to teach them by his example, and lead them on towards the worship of the true God. And sing praises unto thy Name; i.e. to thy Person - God being in his Name.
Great deliverance giveth he to his king; and sheweth mercy to his anointed, to David, and to his seed for evermore.
Verse 50. - Great deliverance giveth he to his king; literally, he magnifies salutations to his king. The primary reference seems to be to the gracious message which God sent to David by Nathan when he had brought the tabernacle into Jerusalem, and purposed to build a "house" worthy of it (see 2 Samuel 7:8-16). God had then "saluted" David as "his servant" (ver. 5), and sent him a message of the most gracious character, even promising the kingdom to him and to his seed "for ever" (vers. 13, 16). And showeth mercy to his anointed, to David. No doubt David is primarily intended, both by the "king" of the first clause, and by the "anointed" of the second; but the combination of the two, and the immediate mention of the "seed" which is to reign "for ever," carry the passage beyond the psalmist individually, and give to the conclusion of the psalm, at any rate, a semi-Messianic character. As Hengstenberg says, "Psalms of this kind are distinguished from those which may more strictly be called Messianic, only by this - that in the latter the Messiah exclusively is brought into view, while here he is presented to our notice only as a member of the seed of David" ('Commentary on the Psalms,' vol. 1. p. 324, Engl. trans.).