Verse 1. - In Judah is God known (comp. Psalm 9:16; Psalm 48:3). By "known" is meant "freshly made known," "revealed," as it were, "anew" by the recent wonderful deliverance. His Name is great in Israel; i.e. greatly honourcd and regarded, on account of what has happened.
In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion.
Verse 2. - In Salem; i.e. Jerusalem. "Salem" was probably a shortened form of the full and complete name, like "Peer" for "Baalpeor," "Maachah" for "Aram-Maa-chah," "El Kuds" for "Beit-el-Kuds," and the like. (So Professor Cheyne.) "Salem" is the peaceful place, the place where God's presence breathed peace and tranquillity. It is only used here and in Genesis 14:11. Is his tabernacle; literally, his tent (comp. Psalm 15:1; Psalm 27:5, 6; Psalm 61:4). The temple is meant, as even Professor Cheyne sees. It took the place of the original "tabernacle," and was modelled upon it. And his dwelling place in Zion; or, "his lair" (comp. Psalm 104:22).
There brake he the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle. Selah.
Verse 3. - There brake he the arrows of the bow. The expression "there" seems certainly to show that the deliverance celebrated took place at, or very near to, Jerusalem. This would sufficiently suit the destruction of Sennacherib's army, which certainly occurred in the neighbourhood, though not very close to the city (see 2 Kings 19:32, 38). The word translated "arrows" (רשׁפי) means properly "lightnings" (comp. Psalm 78:48), and expresses the swift flight of the arrow, not actual "fiery darts." The shield, and the sword, and the battle; rather, the war equipment (Kay, Cheyne).
Thou art more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey.
Verse 4. - Thou art more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey. The psalmist, in this, the main portion of his psalm, directly addresses God. "Thou, O God," he says, "art glorious," or "terrible" (comp. ver. 7, where the same word is used), "and excellent, more than the mountains of prey," or perhaps "from the mountains of spoil;" i.e. from Jerusalem, where the spoils of the Assyrians are laid up, and where thou sittest and rulest. (So Professor Cheyne and Canon Cook.)
The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep: and none of the men of might have found their hands.
Verse 5. - The stout hearted are spoiled. A "vivid description of the catastrophe" now follows. The "stout hearted," the aggressors, the great dominant race, that has spoiled all the nations of the earth, and fears no one (comp. Isaiah 10:12-14, "The stout heart of the King of Assyria"), is itself spoiled in turn. They have slept their sleep. They have slept, and, as they slept (2 Kings 19:35), they found it indeed a sleep, even the sleep of death. And none of the men of might have found their hands. The mighty men, suddenly assaulted by the grim destroyer, Death, can make no resistance; they are paralyzed; they cannot even move a hand.
At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep.
Verse 6. - At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob. The catastrophe has been God's doing; man has had no part in it (comp. 2 Kings 19:28, 35). Both the chariot and the horse are cast into a dead sleep. Metonymy for the charioteers and the horsemen (comp. Isaiah 43:17). These were the two chief arms of the military service with the Assyrians.
Thou, even thou, art to be feared: and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry?
Verse 7. - Thou, even thou, art to be feared. God is to he feared as well as loved. Only "perfect love casteth out fear" (1 John 4:18), and "perfect love" is not for mortals. And who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry? literally, from the time of thine anger (comp. Exodus 5:23; Joshua 14:10).
Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still,
Verse 8. - Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven. By the destruction of Sennacherib's host, God spoke, as it were, with a voice of thunder, to the whole earth. He delivered a "judgment," or a "sentence" (Revised Version), which could not be ignored. The earth feared, and was still. All the world, i.e. all the Oriental world, feared. The attention of the nations of Western Asia generally was attracted (2 Chronicles 32:23), and their minds were affected with a wholesome fear of Jehovah. The result was that they remained at rest and gave Israel rest.
When God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth. Selah.
Verse 9. - When God arose to judgment (see the preceding verses). God's "rising" is an anthropomorphism, drawn from the tact that men "rise up" when they proceed to take vengeance (comp. Psalm 3:7; Psalm 7:6; Psalm 44:26; Psalm 68:1, etc.). To save all the meek of the earth. God's vengeances on the wicked are, in great measure, for the relief of the righteous. Sennacherib's discomfiture relieved "the meek of the earth," i.e. not only Israel, but many other downtrodden and oppressed nations. The psalmist's sympathies are with all the victims of Assyrian ambition.
Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.
Verse 10. - Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee. The sentiment is general, but no doubt there is a special reference to the recent deliverance. The "wrath of man," i.e. man's wicked fury and hostility of God and his people, shall give occasion for great deeds on God's part - deeds which will bring him praise and honour. The remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain. Either, "the unexpended fury of thine enemies, that which they have not vented, thou wilt hold in check, and prevent from doing mischief;" or else," with thine own unexpended wrath wilt thou gird thyself against the wicked, as with a weapon." (So Kay, Cheyne, and the Revised Version.)
Vow, and pay unto the LORD your God: let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared.
Verse 11. - Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God. The people of Israel are now addressed. Under the circumstances, they are sure to have made vows to God in the time of their great trouble, before the deliverance came. Now, when the deliverance has come, let them pay these vows. Let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared; literally, unto the Terrible One. By "all that are round about him" the psalmist seems to mean, not Israel only, but those other oppressed ones who had shared the benefit of the deliverance (comp. ver. 9). That presents were brought by some of these is recorded by the writer of Chronicles (2 Chronicles 32:23).
He shall cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings of the earth.
Verse 12. - He shall cut off the spirit of princes. "The spirit" seems here to mean "the life." God cuts off princes in their prime as a gardener cuts off bunches of grapes (comp. Isaiah 18:5). He is terrible to the kings of the earth. Not "princes" only - נגידים - but "kings" - מלכים - also are cut off in their prime when God pleases. Sennacherib's untimely death (2 Kings 19:37) followed not many years after the destruction of his host, in which there must have been many "princes."