<and Song at the dedication of the house of David.>> I will extol thee, O LORD; for thou hast lifted me up, and hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.
Verse 1. - I will extol thee, O Lord; or, "I will exalt thee," as the word is rendered in Psalm 34:3; Psalm 99:5, 9; and elsewhere. For thou hast lifted me up; or, "drawn me up," as a bucket is drawn up out of a well, or a man out of a dungeon. And hast not made my foes to rejoice over me. David had still enemies at the time of his numbering the people, as appears from 2 Samuel 24:13. Indeed, it was doubtless with some reference to the number of his foes that he wished to know how many followers he could rally to his standard in case of need. If the plague had continued much longer, David's military strength would have been seriously crippled, and his foes would have rejoiced with reason.
O LORD my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.
Verse 2. - O Lord my God, I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me. "Heal" may be used metaphorically for the removal of mental sufferings (see Psalm 41:4; Psalm 147:3); but David's grief when he saw the sufferings of his people from the plague seems to have wholly prostrated him, both in mind and body. For the nature of the "cry" spoken of, comp. vers. 8-10, which are an expansion of the present verse.
O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave: thou hast kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.
Verse 3. - O Lord, thou hast brought up my soul from the grave; i.e. when I was on the verge of the grave, just ready to depart to the unseen world, thy interposition saved me, and brought me, as it were, back to life. Thou hast kept me alive. Lest the hyperbole of the preceding clause should be misunderstood, the writer appends a prosaic account of what had happened. God had "kept him alive" when he was in peril of death, and saved him, that he should not go down to the pit.
Sing unto the LORD, O ye saints of his, and give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
Verse 4. - Sing unto the Lord, O ye saints of his. David continually calls upon the people to join him in his praises of God. Even when the mercy vouchsafed has been granted specially to himself, he regards the people as interested, since he is their ruler in peace and their leader in war (see Psalm 9:11; Psalm 34:3, etc.). On the present occasion, however, the people who had escaped the pestilence had almost exactly the same reason for praising and thanking God that David had, and were bound to join him in his thanksgiving service. And give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness; literally, give thanks to the memorial of his holiness, which is explained, by reference to Exodus 3:15, as meaning, "Give thanks to his holy Name" (comp. Psalm 103:1; Psalm 106:47; Psalm 145:21).
For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Verse 5. - For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life; literally, for a moment (is passed) in his anger, a lifetime in his favour. God s anger is short-lived in the case of those who, having sinned, repent, and confess their sin, and pray for mercy (see vers. 8-10). His favour, on the contrary, is enduring; it continues all their life. Weeping may endure for a night; rather, at eventide weeping comes to lodge, or to pass the night; but joy cometh in the morning; or, but at morn joy arriveth (comp. Job 33:26; Isaiah 26:20; Isaiah 54:7).
And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved.
Verses 6-12. - Now begins the expanded account of the deliverance in respect of which the thanksgiving is offered. And first, with regard to the offence that had drawn down the Divine chastisement; it was an offence of the lips, springing from an evil temper in the heart. Verse 6. - And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be moved; rather, as in the Revised Version, and as for me, in my prosperity I said, etc. There is a marked pause, and introduction of a new subject in a new strophe. Prosperity had worked an ill effect on the psalmist, had made him self-confident and proud. He "said in his heart," as the wicked man in Psalm 10:6, only in still stronger phrase, "I shall not be moved;" literally, I shall not be moved for ever. His heart was lifted up, and in the spirit of self-glorification he gave command for the numbering of the people. The result was the plague, and the death of seventy thousand of his subjects. Into these details he does not here enter. He is content to trace his sin to its bitter root of pride, and to glance at its punishment (ver. 7) and his repentance (vers. 8-10).
LORD, by thy favour thou hast made my mountain to stand strong: thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled.
Verse 7. - Lord, by thy favour thou hast (rather, hadst) made my mountain to stand strong. It was thy favour which had given me the "prosperity" whereby I was exalted, and which I thought rooted in myself - which had made Zion strong, and enabled me to triumph over my enemies. But, lo! suddenly all was changed - Thou didst hide thy face, and I was troubled. God turned his face away, declared himself angry with his servant (1 Chronicles 21:7-12), and sent the dreadful plague which in a single day destroyed seventy thousand lives. Then David, feeling that God's face was indeed turned from him, "was troubled."
I cried to thee, O LORD; and unto the LORD I made supplication.
Verse 8. -
1 cried to thee, O Lord; and unto thee I made supplication (comp. 2 Samuel 24:17; 1 Chronicles 21:17). The part of his prayer most honourable to David is not recorded by himself, but by the historians. He tells us of his secret wrestlings with God, his complaints and expostulations - his cries and pleadings as they remained in his memory; he passes over the desire to die for his people, which the historians put on record.
What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit? Shall the dust praise thee? shall it declare thy truth?
Verse 9. - What profit is there in my blood, when I go down to the pit! What advantage wilt thou derive from my death, if thou killest me, either by the plague, which may as well fasten upon me as upon any one else, or by the misery and mental strain of seeing my subjects, my innocent sheep, suffer? God has "no pleasure in the death of him that dieth" (Ezekiel 18:32), and certainly can obtain no profit from the destruction of any of his creatures. Shall the dust praise thee? (comp. Psalm 6:5; Psalm 88:10; Psalm 115:17; Isaiah 38:18). In death, so far as the power of death extends, there can be no action; the lips cease to move, and therefore cannot hymn God's praise - the "dust" is inanimate, and, while it remains dust, cannot speak. What the freed soul may do, the psalmist does not consider. Very little was known under the old dispensation concerning the intermediate state. Shall it declare thy truth? The dust certainly could not do this, unless revivified and formed into another living body.
Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me: LORD, be thou my helper.
Verse 10. - Hear, O Lord, and have mercy upon me: Lord, be thou my Helper (comp. Psalm 54:4; Hebrews 13:6). Here the psalmist's prayer, uttered in his distress, ends, and he proceeds to declare the result.
Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness;
Verse 11. - Thou hast turned (rather, thou turnedst) for me my mourning into dancing. Suddenly, in a moment, all was changed. The angel ceased to slay. God bade him hold his hand. The Prophet Gad was sent with the joyful news to David, and commanded him at once to build an altar at Jehovah. Then the mourning ceased, and a joyful ceremonial was instituted, of which dancing, as so often, formed a part (see Exodus 15:20; 1 Samuel 18:6; 2 Samuel 6:14-16; Psalm 149:3; Jeremiah 31:4). Thou hast put off (rather, didst put off) my sackcloth. That the king had clothed himself in sackcloth on the occasion, is mentioned by the author of Chronicles (1 Chronicles 21:16). And girded (girdedst) me with gladness (comp. 1 Chronicles 21:26).
To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.
Verse 12. - To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee. If we allow the ellipse of the personal pronoun supposed by our translators and Revisers, we must regard David as calling his soul "his glory," as in Psalm 16:9. But some commentators think that "glory" is here used as we use "royalty," and designates the royal person or the royal office (so Kay and Professor Alexander). And not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever. Great mercies deserve perpetual remembrance. David regarded the mercy at this time vouchsafed him as one which, like that vouchsafed Hezekiah, required to be commemorated "all the days of his life" (Isaiah 38:20).