Verse 1. - I will praise thee, O Lord, with my whole heart; rather, I will give thanks (Kay, Cheyne, Revised Version). The thanks are special for a great deliverance - a deliverance from some heathen enemy (vers. 5, 15), who has been signally defeated and almost exterminated (vers. 5, 6). It has been conjectured that the subjugation of Ammon (2 Samuel 12:26-31) is the occasion referred to ('Speaker's Commentary'); but the expectation of further attack (vers. 17-20) scarcely suits this period, when David's wars were well-nigh over. Perhaps the earlier victory over Ammon and Syria (2 Samuel 10:6-14), which was followed by the renewed invasion of the same nations in conjunction with "the Syrians beyond the river" (2 Samuel 10:16), is more likely to have drawn forth the composition. I will show forth all thy marvellous works; rather, I will tell forth, or I will recount all thy wondrous deeds. Not necessarily miracles, but any strange and unexpected deliverances, such as the recent one (comp. Psalm 40:5; Psalm 78:4).
I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High.
Verse 2. - I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy Name (see the comment on Psalm 8:9). O thou most High (comp. Psalm 7:17; and see also Genesis 14:18, 19, 22). Ellen (עֶלְיון) was a recognized name of God among the Phoenicians ('Religions of the Ancient World,' p. 133).
When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence.
Verse 3. - When mine enemies are turned back; or, because mine enemies are turned back ('Speaker's Commentary'); i.e. made to retreat, repulsed, driven before me in hasty flight. They shall fall and perish at thy presence; or, they stumble and perish, etc. The psalmist represents the enemy, poetically, "as if they had been thrown to the ground by the glance of God's fiery countenance" (Hengstenberg).
For thou hast maintained my right and my cause; thou satest in the throne judging right.
Verse 4. - For thou hast maintained my right and my cause. David uniformly ascribes his military successes, not to his own ability, or even to the valour of his soldiers, but to God's favour. God's favour, which is secured by the justice of his cause, gives him victory after victory. Thou surest in the throne judging right. While the late battle raged, God sat upon his heavenly throne, administering justice, awarding defeat and death to the wrong-doers who had wantonly attacked his people, giving victory and glory and honour to those who stood on their defence against the aggressors.
Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever.
Verse 5. - Thou hast rebuked the heathen; rather, thou didst rebuke; LXX., ἐπετίμησας: i.e. on the recent occasion. When God would rebuke, be punishes; when he punishes, by so doing he rebukes. Thou hast destroyed the wicked; rather, thou didst destroy. Thou hast put out their name for ever and ever. If taken literally, this should mean extermination, and so some explain (Hengstenberg, Kay, 'Speaker's Commentary'); but some allowance must be made for the use of hyperbole by a poet. None of the nations with which David contended suffered extinction or extermination.
O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end: and thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them.
Verse 6. - O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end. It is better to translate, with the Revised Version, The enemy are come to an end; they are desolate for ever - a continuance of the hyperbole already noticed in the preceding verse. And thou hast destroyed cities; their memorial is perished with them; rather, and as for the cities thou hast destroyed, their very memory has perished. This could only be an anticipation. It was fulfilled in the complete disappearance from history of the names of Zoba, Beth-rehob, and Tob, after the victory described in 2 Samuel 10:13, 14.
But the LORD shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment.
Verse 7. - But the Lord shall endure for ever; rather, but the Lord is seated (i.e. upon his throne)for ever. Cities and nations perish, but Jehovah remains a King for evermore. While all is change and disturbance upon earth, the unchanged and unchangeable Eternal One continues constantly seated, in serene majesty, in heaven. He hath prepared (or rather, established) his throne for judgment (compare the second clause of per. 4).
And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness.
Verse 8. - And he shall judge the world. The "he" is emphatic - he himself, and no other. From his throne of judgment he shall judge, not Israel's enemies only, whom he has just judged (vers. 3-6), but the whole world. In righteousness; i.e. by a strict law of justice, rewarding to all men "after their deserving." He shall minister judgment to the people (rather, the peoples; i.e. all the people of all the earth) in uprightness; literally, in uprightnesses - a plural of perfection.
The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.
Verse 9. - The Lord also will be a Refuge for the oppressed. Misgab, translated "refuge," is literally "a hill-fort" (comp. Psalm 144:2, where it is rendered "high tower"). David's use of the metaphor is reasonably ascribed to his having "often experienced safety in such places, when fleeing from Saul" (Hengstenberg; see 1 Samuel 23:14). A refuge in times of trouble; literally, in times in trouble; i.e. "in times that are steeped in trouble" (Kay).
And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee.
Verse 10. - And they that know thy Name will put their trust in thee. "To know the Name of God is to know him according to his historical manifestation; when one hears him named, to call to remembrance all that he has done. His name is the focus in which all the rays of his actions meet" (Hengstenberg). All who "know God's Name" in this sense will be sure to "put their trust in him," since his historical manifestation shows that he is thoroughly to he depended on. For thou, Lord, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. Never in the past, so far as David knew, had God forsaken those who faithfully clung to him. They might be tried, like Job; they might be "hunted upon the mountains," like David himself; they might even have the sense of being forsaken (Psalm 22:1); but they were not forsaken nevertheless. God "forsaketh not his saints; they are preserved for ever" (Psalm 37:28).
Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings.
Verse 11. - Sing praises to the Lord. Having praised God himself (vers. 1, 2), and declared the grounds upon which his praises rest (vers. 3-10), David now calls upon all faithful Israelites to join him in his song of thanksgiving. "Sing praises unto the Lord," he says, which dwelleth in Zion. Who is enthroned, i.e., on the mercy-seat between the cherubim in the tabernacle, now set up upon Mount Zion (2 Samuel 6:1-17). The date of the psalm is thus to some extent limited, since it must have been composed subsequently to the transfer of the ark to Jerusalem. Declare among the people his doings. In the original "among the peoples" (עַמִּים); i.e. not the people of Israel only, but all the surrounding nations. David is possessed with the conviction that the revelation of God made to Israel is not to be confined to them, but through them to be communicated to "all the ends of the earth" - to the heathen at large, to all nations (comp. Psalm 18:49; Psalm 66:4; Psalm 72:11, 19, etc.).
When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble.
Verse 12. - When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them; rather, for he that maketh inquisition for blood (see Genesis 9:5) remembereth them. God, i.e., the Requirer of blood (Kay), remembers, when he makes his inquisition, those who are oppressed (per. 9), and who seek him (ver. 10). He forgetteth not the cry of the humble; or, the afflicted (Kay, Cheyne). He comes to the aid of such persons, and avenges them on their enemies.
Have mercy upon me, O LORD; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death:
Verse 13. - Have mercy upon me, O Lord! The consideration of God's mercies in the past, and especially in the recent deliverance, leads the psalmist to implore a continuance of his mercies in the future. He is not yet free from troubles. There are still enemies who afflict and threaten him - "heathen" who seek to "prevail" against him (vers. 19, 20), and perhaps already domestic enemies, especially the "sons of Zeruiah," causing him anxiety. Consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me; literally, my trouble (or, my affliction) from my haters. Vers. 17, 19, 20 show that the heathen are especially intended (see 2 Samuel 10:15-19). Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death; i.e. "Thou that continually (or, habitually) art my Support in the extremity of peril," "lifting me up" even from the very "gates of death." (For other mentions of "the gates of death," see Job 38:17; Psalm 107:18.) Classical writers speak of "the gates of darkness" (σκότου πύλας) in almost the same sense (Eurip., 'Hec.,' 1. 1).
That I may shew forth all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion: I will rejoice in thy salvation.
Verse 14. - That I may show forth all thy praise in the gates of the daughter of Zion. The "daughter of Zion" is, of course, Jerusalem. Compare "daughter of Babylon" (Psalm 137:8; Isaiah 47:1; Jeremiah 50:42; Zechariah 2:7), "daughter of the Chaldeans" (Isaiah 47:1, 5), "daughter of Edom" (Lamentations 4:21, 22), "daughter of Gallim" (Isaiah 10:30). Hengstenberg is probably right in understanding "in the gates" as "within the gates," since, as he observes, "God's praise is not to be celebrated in the gates, amid the throng of worldly business, but in the temple." The references in the ' Speaker's Commentary' do not bear out the statement there made, that "public mournings and public thanksgivings were proclaimed in the gates." I will rejoice in thy salvation; or, that I may rejoice (Kay).
The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made: in the net which they hid is their own foot taken.
Verse 15. - The heathen are sunk down in the pit that they made. It is uncertain whether the writer here reverts to the judgment already executed (vers. 3-6), or with the eye of faith sees as past the judgment which he confidently anticipates (vers. 19, 20). Whichever he intends, there can be no doubt that he means it to be understood that the stratagems of the enemy brought about (or would bring about) their downfall. In the net which they hid is their own foot taken. A second metaphor, expressing the same idea as the preceding (comp. Psalm 7:15, 16; Psalm 10:2; Psalm 35:8; Psalm 141:10).
The LORD is known by the judgment which he executeth: the wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Higgaion. Selah.
Verse 16. - The Lord is known by the judgment which he executeth; rather, the Lord hath made himself known; he executeth judgment (see the Revised Version; and comp. Ezekiel 20:9). The two clauses are grammatically distinct, though no doubt closely connected in their meaning. God makes himself known - manifests his character, by the judgments which he executes, shows himself just, perhaps severe, certainly One who "will not at all acquit the wicked" (Nahum 1:3). The wicked is snared in the work of his own hands. Some translate, "he snareth the wicked," or, "by snaring the wicked" - the special way in which God manifests himself (see Kay, p. 31; 'Speaker's Commentary,' vol. 4. p. 190). Higgaion. This word is found in three other places only, viz. Psalm 19:14; Psalm 92:3; and Lamentations 3:61. In the first it is translated "meditation," and has clearly that meaning; in the second it is supposed to mean "a gentle strain:" in the third it seems best rendered by "musing" or "reflection." Here it stands by itself, as a sort of rubrical direction, like the following word, "Selah." Some suppose it a direction to the choir to play a gentle strain of instrumental music as an interlude; others regard it as enjoining upon the congregation a space of quiet "meditation" (see Hengstenberg, ad loc.; and compare Professor Alexander's work, 'The Psalms translated and explained,' p. 45). Selah (see the comment on Psalm 3:2).
The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.
Verse 17. - The wicked shall be tamed into hell; literally, shall be turned backwards to Sheol, or Hades; i.e. shall be removed from earth to the place of departed spirits. There is no direct threat of retribution or punishment, beyond the peens damni, or loss of all that is pleasing and delightful in this life. And all the nations that forget God; rather, even all the people (Kay). "The wicked" and "the people that forget God" are identical.
For the needy shall not alway be forgotten: the expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever.
Verse 18. - For the needy shall not alway be forgotten. The peer and needy, the oppressed and down-trodden (vers. 9, 12), seem for a time to be forgotten of God; but even this seeming oblivion comes to an end when judgment fails on the oppressors (ver. 17). The expectation of the poor shall not perish for ever. "The expectation of the poor" is deliverance. It shall not "perish," or be disappointed, "for ever," i.e. always. There shall be a time when their expectation shall have its accomplishment.
Arise, O LORD; let not man prevail: let the heathen be judged in thy sight.
Verse 19. - Arise, O Lord (comp. Psalm 7:6, and the comment ad loc.). Let not man prevail; or, let not weak man prevail. The word used for "man," enosh, carries with it the idea of weakness. That "weak man" should prevail over God is preposterous. Let the heathen be judged in thy sight. If judged, then, as being wicked, condemned; if condemned, then punished - defeated, ruined, brought to nought (see ver. 5)
Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah.
Verse 20. - Put them in fear, O Lord; literally, set fear to them; i.e. "make them afraid," either by striking a panic terror into them, as into the Syrians when they had brought Samaria to the last gasp (2 Kings 7:6, 7), or by causing them calmly to review the situation, and to see how dangerous it was to assail God's people (2 Kings 6:23). That the nations may know themselves to be but men. May recognize, i.e., their weakness; may remember that they are enosh - mere weak, frail, sickly, perishing mortals. Selah. Here this word occurs for the second time at the end of a psalm (see above, Psalm 3:8) - a position which militates against the idea of its signifying "a pause," since there must always have been a pause at the end of every psalm.