Verse 1. - Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Zion; literally, there is silence praise (equivalent to "silent praise") for thee, O God, in Zion. There was, for the most part, a hushed silence in the tabernacle and temple, amid which silent prayer and praise were offered to God by the priests and Levites, and any lay persons who might be present (camp. 1 Samuel 1:13). And unto thee shall the vow be performed. When there was any special outpouring of praise in the temple, there would almost always be a performance of vows. Both depended on some deliverance or favour having been granted.
O thou that hearest prayer, unto thee shall all flesh come.
Verse 2. - O thou that hearest prayer. A necessary and inalienable attribute of God. Calvin rightly observes on the passage: "God can no more divest himself of his attribute of hearing prayer than of being." Unto thee shall all flesh come. "All flesh" might certainly, in a psalmist's mouth, mean no more than "all Israel" (so Ewald and Hitzig). But the context (especially in vers. 5 and 8) shows that in this psalm the writer is universalist in his ideas, and embraces all mankind in his hopes and aspirations (comp. Psalm 22:27, 28; Psalm 86:9; Isaiah 66:23; Jeremiah 16:19; Joel 2:28).
Iniquities prevail against me: as for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away.
Verse 3. - Iniquities prevail against me. Not so much, perhaps, his own iniquities, as these of his nation. Compare the expression, "our transgressions," in the next clause. As for our trangressions, thou shalt purge them away; or, cover them.
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.
Verse 4. - Blessed is the man whom thou choosest. The "choosing" intended is certainly not that of the seed of Aaron (Leviticus 8:1), or of the seed of Levi (Numbers 18:21-23), but that act by which God "chose" Israel out of all the nations of the earth to be "a special people unto himself" (Deuteronomy 7:6), and gave them a distinct position, and peculiar privileges. And causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts. Among the peculiar privileges, one of the greatest was that of approaching God's presence in his holy temple, and entering his "courts" and worshipping there. This all Israelites were not only permitted, but commanded to do, at least three times in the year, while the dwellers in Jerusalem, privileged above the rest, had constant opportunities of attending, and using to the full the means of grace provided for them in the sanctuary. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, even of thy holy temple. In "the goodness of God's house" the psalmist includes, not only the delights there experienced, but also all the blessings which God gives to those who devoutly worship him there - "from the forgiveness of sins to outward, temporal mercies" (Hengstenberg).
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:
Verse 5. - By terrible things in righteousness (i.e. "by terrible acts of righteous judgment upon our enemies") wilt thou answer us. This is a sequel to ver. 2. As God hears prayer and answers it, so when his people cry to him for protection and deliverance from their foes, the result can only be righteous judgments of a fearful character upon the persecutors. O God of our salvation; i.e. God through whom we obtain salvation. Who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth (see the comment on ver. 2, and comp. ver. 8). And of them that are afar off upon the sea; literally, and of the sea of those afar off. The reading is, perhaps, corrupt.
Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains; being girded with power:
Verses 6-8. - God having been praised for his moral qualities, is now further eulogized in respect of his doings in nature. The mountains set forth his majesty and permanence (ver. 6); the seas and waves, his power to control and subdue (ver. 7); the outgoings of the morning and evening - sunrise and sunset - his gracious loving kindness (ver. 8). Verse 6. - Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains (comp. Psalm 36:6; Psalm 95:4; Amos 4:13). The mountains are an emblem of God's strength and firmness and fixedness. They stand up in still and silent majesty; they seem as if they could never be moved. He who created them must be girded with power (camp. Psalm 93:1).
Which stilleth the noise of the seas, the noise of their waves, and the tumult of the people.
Verse 7. - Which stllleth the noise of the seas. The power of God, as set forth in his control of the sea, is a favourite topic with the sacred writers (see Job 38:8; Proverbs 8:29; Isaiah 50:2; Isaiah 51:10; Jeremiah 5:22, etc.). Being so entirely beyond his own control, it seems to man one of the greatest of marvels that there should be any force capable of subduing and taming it, Hence the admiration excited by our Lord's miracle (Matthew 8:26, 27). The noise of their waves (comp. Isaiah 17:12). And the tumult of the people. This clause may seem a little out of place in a passage which treats of God's power over nature. But, after all, humanity is a constituent part of nature.
They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid at thy tokens: thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice.
Verse 8. - They also that dwell in the uttermost parts are afraid of thy tokens; g.e. they see thy tokens - indications of thy mighty power - and are filled with awe. Thou makest the outgoings of the morning and evening (or, the portals of morn and eve - the gateways through which the sun comes forth each morning and retires each evening) to rejoice; ¢.e. to gladden mankind, to spread joy and gladness over the earth. The splendour of sunrise and sunset are in the poet's mind.
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.
Verses 9-13. - In conclusion, the psalmist praises God for his bountiful providence with respect to the harvest. According to some, the whole poem is essentially a harvest thanksgiving, and the poet now "comes at last to the point aimed at from the first." He traces the whole process by which the glorious termination is arrived at. First, the "early rain" descending from "the river of God," or the reservoir for rain which God guards in the heavens (Job 38:37), moistening the furrows, softening the ridges, and preparing the land for the seed-corn. Then the sowing, which, being man's work, is but just touched on (ver. 9, ad fin.). After that, the "latter rain" - the gentle showers of March and April - which cause the grain to burst and the blade to spring, and the ear to form itself, and turn the dull fallow into a mass of greenery (vers. 10, 12). At last, the full result - pastures clothed with flocks; valleys, the "long broad sweeps between parallel ranges of hills," covered over with corn; all nature laughing and shouting for joy (ver. 13). Verse 9. - Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it (comp. Job 36:27, 28; Job 37:6; Job 38:26-28; Psalm 147:18; Jeremiah 5:24; Matthew 5:45). Thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God. There is no "with" in the original; and the two clauses are better taken separately. Translate, Thou greatly enrichest it; the river of God is full of water. By "the river of God" is to be understood God's store of water in the clouds and atmosphere, which he can at any time retain or let loose. Thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it; rather, when thou hast so prepared her (the earth). By thus preparing the earth for the sowing. God prepares for men the corn which they ultimately obtain at the harvest.
Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof.
Verse 10. - Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly; rather, the furrows (Hengstenberg, Kay, Cheyne, Revised Version). Thou settlest the furrows thereof; rather, thou smoothest down its ridges. So covering up the grain, and bringing the rough ploughed land to a comparatively smooth surface. Thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof. The whole ground being softened with warm showers, the springing of the blade begins under God's blessing.
Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness.
Verse 11. - Thou crownest the year with thy goodness. As God had begun, so he goes on to the "crowning" of the whole. And thy paths drop fatness. As he moves about, visiting the earth (ver. 9), there drop from him fertility and abundance.
They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side.
Verse 12. - They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness; rather, the pastures of the wilderness drip with it; i.e. with the "fatness" which is shed from God's presence. And the little hills rejoice on every side; literally, are girded with joy.
The pastures are clothed with flocks; the valleys also are covered over with corn; they shout for joy, they also sing.
Verse 13. - The pastures are clothed with flocks; or, with their flocks; i.e. the flocks befitting them. The valleys also are covered over with corn. The great open sweeps between the ranges of hills are completely covered over with grain crops, wheat, barley, millet; and the result is that they seem to shout for joy, they also sing. This is better than the rendering of Ewald and Delitzsch, "Man shouts for joy; he sings." All the poets personify Nature, and make her sympathize with human kind (comp. Isaiah 14:8; Isaiah 35:1; Isaiah 55:12; Virg., ' Eclog.,' 5:62; ' Georg.,' 4:461).