Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The theme of this magnificent Psalm is the march of God to victory. It traces the establishment of His kingdom in Israel in the past; it looks forward to the defeat of all opposition in the future, until all the kingdoms of the world own the God of Israel as their Lord and pay Him homage.
Every conceivable occasion and date have been suggested for this Psalm, from the age of Joshua to that of the Maccabees. Those who accept the title, and maintain the Davidic authorship, or at any rate the Davidic date, are by no means agreed as to the particular period of David’s reign to which it should be referred. Some suppose it to have been written for the translation of the ark to Zion (2 Samuel 6): others, for the triumphal procession of thanksgiving for some victory; while others again regard it as celebrating David’s victories in general, with retrospective allusion to the translation of the Ark, and prospective anticipation of the building of the Temple. Others have connected it with the translation of the Ark to Solomon’s Temple. Others find an appropriate occasion for it in the victory of Jehoshaphat and Jehoram over Moab, or in the repulse of the Assyrians in the reign of Hezekiah. Others place it in the closing years of the Babylonian Exile, and others after the Return from Babylon, at a date decidedly later than the time of Nehemiah. Others think that it was written during the wars between Egypt and Syria for the possession of Palestine towards the close of the third century b.c.; and others place it later still, connecting it with the war between Ptolemy Philometor and Alexander Balas, b.c. 146 (1 Maccabees 11).
The obvious inference from this wide variety of opinion is that the data are really insufficient for forming a definite conclusion. It is impossible to speak positively; but the grounds for assigning it to the same period as Isaiah 40-66, i.e. the last decade of the Babylonian exile, seem so far to preponderate, and the circumstances of that time appear so far to give the best background for the explanation of the Psalm as a whole, that this view has been provisionally adopted as the basis of the present commentary. The following are the chief grounds for it.
(1) Language is no doubt a precarious criterion; but there are features in the Psalm which point to a late rather than an early date. Thus e.g. the word for prosperity (Psalm 68:6) is derived from a root found only in late books (Esth. Eccl.), though common in Aramaic: the nearest parallel to the word for parched land (Psalm 68:6) is in Ezekiel; the word for scatter (Psalm 68:30) is not the ordinary Heb. word, but half Aramaic in form.
(2) The literary affinities of the Psalm point decidedly in the same direction. Not only is it dependent on the Blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33) and the Song of Deborah (Judges 5), but it contains parallels with Isaiah 40-66 which seem to indicate either that the writer was acquainted with those prophecies, or else that his language had been formed in the same atmosphere of thought and hope. Thus e.g. the summons of Psalm 68:4, “Cast up a highway for him that rideth through the deserts” at once reminds us of Isaiah 40:3, “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God”; and the very same word “cast up a highway” is used in Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10, and nowhere else in this sense. With Psalm 68:6 compare Isaiah 42:7; Isaiah 49:9; Isaiah 61:1; and with Psalm 68:31 cp. Isaiah 45:14. There are also parallels with the Prayer of Habakkuk, but they are not in themselves such as to prove that the Psalmist was indebted to it.
 Cp. Psalm 68:17 with Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:19-20 with Deuteronomy 33:29; Psalm 68:26 with Deuteronomy 33:28; Psalm 68:4; Psalm 68:33-34 with Deuteronomy 33:26-27.
 Cp. Psalm 68:4 with Jdg 5:3 : Psalm 68:7-8 with Jdg 5:4-5; Psalm 68:12 with Jdg 5:30; Psalm 68:13 with Jdg 5:16; Psalm 68:18 with Jdg 5:12; Psalm 68:27 with Jdg 5:14; Jdg 5:18.
 Cp. Psalm 68:7 with Habakkuk 3:12-13; Psalm 68:10 with Habakkuk 3:14; Psalm 68:21 with Habakkuk 3:13-14.
On the other hand the dependence of the Psalm on Isaiah 24-27 (probably to be dated after the Return from Babylon, perhaps about b.c. 500–480), which is maintained by some commentators, certainly cannot be proved.
(3) Clear and definite historical references are wanting; but many of the allusions can best be explained from the circumstances of the closing years of the Exile.
(1) The opening verses in each of the main divisions of the Psalm (1–3; 19–23) seem to contemplate an approaching manifestation of God’s power on behalf of His people which will bring salvation and joy to them, shame and destruction to their enemies, and appear to point (cp. Psalm 68:5-6; Psalm 68:20) to the present need of such an interposition. The same juxtaposition of Redemption and Judgement is prominent in Isaiah 40-66.
(2) The characteristic attributes of God in Psalm 68:4-6 no doubt include a reference to the Exodus from Egypt and the settlement in Canaan; but the parallels already quoted from Isaiah 40 ff give good ground for thinking that the Exodus from Babylon and the resettlement of Israel in Canaan were also is the Psalmist’s mind.
(3) Psalm 68:7-18 are a historical retrospect; and there is nothing to shew that the poet was contemporary with the point to which he carries it. If he wrote in view of the approaching return of God to His ancient dwelling-place, His original entry into it was a natural point to which to bring down his survey.
(4) It has been maintained that Psalm 68:24-27 are the description of an actual procession which the Psalmist himself has witnessed, and that the mention of Zebulun and Naphtali along with Judah and Benjamin carries the Psalm back to a date before the separation of the kingdoms. But, as will be shewn in the notes, the connexion of thought points rather to an occasion beyond the deliverance spoken of in Psalm 68:19-23 as still future; in other words to an ideal procession which rises before the poet’s imagination as the celebration of the great triumph over Israel’s enemies to which he looks forward; and if this is the case, the mention of Northern as well as Southern tribes as taking part in it can be best explained as the anticipation of the fulfilment of the numerous prophecies which predict the reunion of Israel and Judah.
(5) Psalm 68:29 does not necessarily presuppose the existence of the Temple. It may look forward to its restoration, just as, on the hypothesis of the Davidic date, it must look forward to its erection. The importance of the Temple to the age of the Restoration is a prominent thought in Haggai and Zechariah; and its significance in relation to the nations appears from Isaiah 60, &c.
(6) The reference to Egypt in Psalm 68:30 is too obscure to be made the ground of argument. There probably, as in Psalm 68:31, Egypt is mentioned as the typical enemy of Israel. At any rate it gives no support to the Davidic date. There is no hint that Israel was in any way threatened by Egypt during the reign of David.
It has been argued that the triumphant tone of the Psalm furnishes a conclusive refutation of the hypothesis that it was composed during the Exile. But if the approaching Return was the occasion of some of the grandest prophecies in the O.T., it cannot be impossible that it should also have been the occasion of one of the grandest Psalms in the Psalter. In appearance and to the outward eye the Return from Babylon was a “day of small things”: in reality and to the eye of faith it was one of the most momentous crises in the history of the Chosen People, nay, of the world, comparable only to the Exodus. For if the Exodus from Egypt was the birthday of the nation of Israel, the Exodus from Babylon was the birthday of the Jewish Church. The parallel between the first and the second Exodus is constantly present to the mind of the prophets. This poet-seer looks away from the actual circumstances which surround him to the true meaning and the ultimate issues of that new march of God through the deserts which he is about to witness, and he sees the analogy and the guarantee for it in the past history of the nation. There are parts of Isaiah 40-66 (e.g. ch. 60) which betray no trace of weakness or misgiving. Why may not the age which could produce such a prophecy have produced such a Psalm? At least the occasion was worthy of a Psalm which has been well described as “the most buoyant, the most powerful, the most animated, which is to be found in the Psalter.”
Whatever may have been its origin and date, the grandeur of the Psalm remains the same, and its inspired and inspiring assurance of the certainty of the final triumph of God and the universal recognition of His sovereignty is unaltered. It has always been the favourite Psalm of those who felt (whether rightly or wrongly) that their cause was the cause of God, and that in His strength they were sure to conquer. To the crusaders setting out for the recovery of the Holy Land; to Savonarola and his monks as they marched to the ‘trial of fire’ in the Piazza at Florence; to the Huguenots who called it “the song of battles”; to Cromwell at Dunbar as the sun rose on the mists of the morning and he charged Leslie’s army; it has supplied words for the expression of their heartfelt convictions.
The choice of the Psalm for use in the service of the Synagogue at Pentecost was doubtless determined by the allusion in Psalm 68:7-8 to the giving of the Law at Sinai, which is commemorated at that Festival. Its selection as a Proper Psalm for Whitsunday was probably suggested partly by the Jewish usage, partly by St Paul’s application of Psalm 68:18 to the spiritual gifts bestowed by the risen and ascended Christ upon the Church. But the appropriateness does not depend upon a single verse. No Psalm could be fitter for the “birthday of the universal Church” than the Psalm which celebrates the triumphs of God in the history of His people, and looks forward to the extension of His kingdom throughout the world.
 The Targum introduces references to the giving of the Law in several other passages: e.g. Psalm 68:11, “The Lord gave the words of the Law to the people”: Psalm 68:15, “Mount Sinai was chosen for the giving of the Law”: Psalm 68:18, see note.
It is most truly a Messianic Psalm; for though it contains no direct prophecy of Christ’s coming, it is full of the thought of the presence and dwelling of God among His people, which is most fully realised in the Incarnation; and it is animated by the consciousness that all God’s mighty works for Israel were but the means to a higher end, the spiritual conquest of the world, and the universal establishment of His kingdom.
The following is an outline of the contents of the Psalm, which consists of a prelude, and two main divisions, which may be subdivided into stanzas of 3, 4, and 5 verses.
i. The Prelude (Psalm 68:1-6).
1. God is about to manifest His presence and power to the discomfiture of His foes and the joy of His people (Psalm 68:1-3).
2. The Psalmist calls upon his countrymen to welcome the advent of their God and prepare the way for it; bidding them remember what He is—the helper of the helpless and oppressed, the liberator of the captive (Psalm 68:4-6).
ii. A survey of Israel’s history in proof of God’s victorious power and gracious love (Psalm 68:7-18).
1. The Exodus from Egypt and the Entry into the Promised Land. His majesty was manifested at Sinai, His goodness in the preparation of Canaan to be the home of the long-oppressed Israelites (Psalm 68:7-10).
2. The conquest. He gave them victory over the mighty kings of Canaan (Psalm 68:11-14).
3. The choice of Zion. He chose Zion for His earthly abode, and returned to heaven as a triumphant conqueror, having received the submission and homage of men (Psalm 68:15-18).
iii. From the past the Psalmist turns to the present and the future (Psalm 68:19-35).
1. God is an ever-present Saviour of His people: He will take vengeance on their enemies (Psalm 68:19-23).
2. Once more the victory of God will be celebrated by a reunited Israel (Psalm 68:24-27).
3. The Psalmist prays that God will display His power and subdue all opposition, and sees the nations hastening to pay Him homage (Psalm 68:28-31).
4. All nations are summoned to join in the praise of Israel’s God, and the Psalm closes with their confession of His gracious sovereignty (Psalm 68:32-35).
To the chief Musician, A Psalm or Song of David. Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.1. God shall arise, his enemies shall be scattered
And they that hate him shall flee from his presence.
Psalms 67 begins with an echo of the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:24 ff, and the opening words of Psalms 68 are based upon the prayer or watchword used when the Ark, the symbol of the Divine Presence in the midst of Israel, set forward on its journeys in the wilderness (Numbers 10:35). But the Psalmist translates the prayer of Moses
“Arise, Jehovah, and let thine enemies be scattered,
And let them that hate thee flee from thy presence,”
into a positive expression of confident assurance that God is about to arise and manifest His power on behalf of His people. Most versions ancient and modern (except the Genevan, which has the future throughout Psalm 68:1-3) render Let God arise; but the form of the verb is against this rendering, and if the words had been meant as a prayer, it would have been more natural to retain the direct invocation of the original.
before him] Better, from his presence (lit. face) as in Psalm 68:2; Psalm 68:8; and so also in Psalm 68:3-4.
1–3. The advent of God brings terror and destruction to His enemies, blessing and joy to His people.
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.2. The verbs should be rendered as in Psalm 68:1 by futures: As smoke … so shalt thou drive them away: as wax … so shall the wicked perish at the presence of God. The smoke scattered by the wind is an apt emblem for total disappearance (Psalm 37:20; Hosea 13:3); the wax melted by the fire for unresisting impotence (Psalm 97:5; Micah 1:4). “At the blast of the breath of Jehovah” the wicked vanish, leaving no trace behind; the consuming fire of His wrath they are powerless to withstand.
But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.3. But the righteous shall be glad, shall exult at the presence of God;
Yea, they shall rejoice with gladness.
The righteous are the people of God, viewed in the light of their calling: the wicked are the heathen, regarded in the light of their general antagonism to God and His people. Cp. Habakkuk 1:13. In the contrast between Israel and the heathen the unrighteousness of many in Israel fades out of sight. The A.V. rendering before in this verse and Psalm 68:4 fails to bring out the significant contrast with Psalm 68:1-2. The Presence which brings dismay and destruction to the wicked, brings joy and blessing to the righteous. Cp. Psalm 67:1; Exodus 33:14; Isaiah 63:9; 2 Thessalonians 1:9-10.
Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.4. to his name] Praising Him for all that He has revealed Himself to be. Cp. Psalm 44:8; Exodus 3:15.
extol &c.] Render,
Cast up a high way for him that rideth through the deserts;
His name is JAH; and exult ye at his presence.
God’s advent is described under the figure of the progress of an Oriental monarch, for whose chariot pioneers prepare the road. In almost identical words the prophet calls to the exiles in Babylon (Isaiah 40:3),
“Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of the Lord,
Make straight in the desert a high way for our God:”
and in Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10 the same word cast up a high way is used of preparing for the return of Israel from Babylon. God’s people must prepare a way for Him by the removal of the obstacles of unbelief and faintheartedness and ungodliness which hinder Him from coming to deliver them.
The renderings of A.V. Extol … upon the heavens are derived from Jewish sources. The Targ. renders “Extol him that sitteth upon the throne of his glory in Arâbôth,” which is explained by comparison of Psalm 68:33 to mean the seventh or uppermost heaven. See Talm. Chagigah 12 b (Streane’s transl. p. 65). The curious addition as it were upon an horse in P.B.V. (Great Bible, but not Coverdale) appears to come from Münster’s Latin Version (1534–5) veluti equo insidet.
JAH is a shortened form of Jehovah (Jahveh), chosen here perhaps with allusion to its use in Exodus 15:2 (upon which are based Isaiah 12:2, Psalm 118:4), to recall the memories of the Exodus. It is peculiar to poetry, and outside the book of Psalms, where it occurs most frequently in the familiar Hallelujah = ‘Praise ye Jah,’ it is found only in Exodus 15:2; Exodus 17:16; Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 26:4; Isaiah 38:11.
A curious mistake is to be found in the older editions of the Prayer Book, until about 1750:—“Praise him in his name: yea, and rejoice before him.” The Great Bible of 1539 has, “Prayse ye him in his name la and reioyse before hym”; but the edition of Nov. 1540 and others have: “Prayse hym in hys name: yea, and reioyce before hym.” It appears to be simply a typographical error.
4–6. God’s people are summoned to welcome Him and prepare the way for His coming: He is the champion of the weak and defenceless, the liberator of the captive.
A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.5. The orphan and the widow are typical examples of the friendless and unprotected who are under God’s special guardianship (Psalm 10:14; Psalm 146:9; Hosea 14:3). They are the subjects of a special clause in the earliest legislation (Exodus 22:22 ff.), which is reechoed by the latest of the prophets (Malachi 3:5). Cp. Isaiah 1:17; Isaiah 1:23.
his holy habitation] Not the temple but heaven, whence He ‘looks down’ to bless His people (Deuteronomy 26:15), and rules the world, espousing the cause of the humblest, whom men are most prone to despise. For the phrase cp. Jeremiah 25:30; Zechariah 2:13; 2 Chronicles 30:27. In Isaiah 63:15 a different Heb. word is used.
God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.6. God maketh the solitary to dwell in a house;
He bringeth out prisoners into prosperity;
But the stubborn dwell In a parched land.
The verse describes general principles of God’s dealings with men, yet with special allusion to the establishment of Israel in Canaan, to their liberation from the bondage of Egypt, and to the fate of the rebels in the wilderness: and again, if the Ps. is rightly placed in the Exile, to the second Exodus from Babylon, and the reestablishment of the Israelites in their ancient home, while the faithless and rebellious part of the people will be left in the dreary and inhospitable heathen land, unwatered by the streams of divine grace (Psalm 63:1). Rebellious or stubborn has been understood by some to refer to the heathen, but the usage of the word (which is applied to the ‘stubborn and rebellious son’ in Deuteronomy 21:18; Deuteronomy 21:20) suggests rather that refractory Israelites are meant, as in Psalm 78:8. Stubborn rebellion against Jehovah’s will was characteristic of the whole course of Israel’s history; and it is hinted not obscurely that as of old the rebels perished in the wilderness instead of entering Canaan, so now the murmurers in Babylon, of whom it is plain from Isaiah 40-66 (e.g. Psalm 65:2) that there were many, will be left there to their fate. The solitary or desolate (Psalm 25:16) are the homeless and friendless. Cp. Isaiah 58:7; and (though the word is different) Lamentations 1:1.
O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah:7, 8. These verses are borrowed, with some omissions and alterations, from the Song of Deborah (Jdg 5:4-5):
“Jehovah, when thou wentest forth out of Seir,
When thou didst march out of the field of Edom,
The earth trembled, the heavens also dropped,
Yea, the clouds dropped water;
The mountains quaked at the presence of God,
Even yon Sinai at the presence of Jehovah, the God of Israel.”
When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He “went before them … to lead them in the way” (Exodus 13:21 f.; cp. Micah 2:13), and in the great Theophany of Sinai the mystery and marvel of His self-revelation were concentrated. Earthquake and storm are the symbols of His Presence and Power. See Exodus 19:16 ff., and cp. Psalm 18:7 ff.; Habakkuk 3:3 ff.
Three times in this Psalm (7, 19, 32) Selah occurs not at the close of a stanza, but after the first verse of a stanza. If the text is right, it would seem that a musical interlude was employed to enforce the thought with which the stanza begins.
7–10. The Exodus from Egypt and the Entry into Canaan.
7–18. After this general introduction the Psalmist proceeds to review the past history of Israel in proof of God’s victorious power and of His gracious love towards His people.
The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.8. shook] R.V. trembled.
dropped] Torrents of rain accompanied the thunders and lightnings. Cp. Psalm 77:17 f.
at the presence of God] Cp. Psalm 68:1-4.
even Sinai itself was moved] R.V., Even yon Sinai (trembled). The words yon Sinai come in somewhat abruptly here, while in Judges they follow quite naturally upon the clause “the mountains quaked.” A verb however can be supplied from the first line, and there is no need to alter the text.
the God of Israel] The use of this title here is significant. It was from Sinai that the covenant-relation between Jehovah and His people dated. Cp. Exodus 24:8; Exodus 24:10.
Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary.9. Thou, O God, didst send &c.] Or, dost send, a general truth, illustrated by God’s dealings with Israel. The verse is explained by, many to refer to the manna and the quails which God ‘rained down’ upon the Israelites (Exodus 16:4; Psalm 78:24; Psalm 78:27); or generally, to all the gifts and blessings which He bestowed upon them in the wilderness. But ‘dwelt’ in Psalm 68:10 (though the word is sometimes used of the temporary sojourn in the wilderness, e.g. Numbers 25:1; Deuteronomy 1:46) is most naturally understood of the settlement in Canaan, and the antecedent to ‘therein’ must be ‘thine inheritance,’ i.e. the promised land, which is called God’s inheritance in Exodus 15:17; Jeremiah 2:7; Psalm 79:1; 2Ma 2:4, “The mount which Moses ascended and viewed the inheritance of God.” Psalm 68:9 will thus refer to the gracious preparation of the land of Canaan to be the home of Israel. In contrast to the land of Egypt from which they had come, and the wilderness through which they had passed, it was a land of abundant rain (Deuteronomy 11:10-12; Psalm 65:9): though it too had known what it was to be ‘weary’ with drought (Genesis 47:13). But a plentiful rain, lit. rain of bounteousnesses, is not perhaps to be limited to the literal meaning, but may include all blessings which God pours out upon His people of His gracious liberality.
whereby thou didst confirm] Omit whereby, which is not in the Heb. Confirm may mean stablish as in Exodus 15:17; Psalm 48:8; or prepare, LXX κατηρτίσω.
weary] Cp., though the word is different, Psalm 63:1.
Thy congregation hath dwelt therein: thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor.10. Thy congregation took up its abode therein:
In thy goodness, O God, thou dost provide for the afflicted.
The word rendered congregation, or, as R.V. marg., troop, or family, is a peculiar one. The corresponding Arabic word means “such a kindred group as was guided in war and on the march by one chief, migrating together, and forming generally a single settlement.” Robertson Smith, Kinship and Marriage in Early Arabia, pp. 36 ff. From the meaning life or living, the word came to mean a clan, a group of one blood, on the old Semitic principle that “the life of the flesh lies in the blood” (Leviticus 17:11). Thou dost provide for the afflicted is a general truth, which found special illustration in regard to Israel, ‘afflicted’ by the bondage of Egypt (Exodus 3:7; Exodus 3:17).
The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.11. The Lord giveth the word:
The women that publish the tidings are a great host.
God’s word is sovereign (Psalm 33:9; Isaiah 30:30). He has only to command, and the victory is won. Forthwith are heard the songs of the women proclaiming the good news. Victories were commonly celebrated by the Israelite women with song and dance. Cp. Psalm 68:25, Exodus 15:20 f.; Judges 5; Jdg 11:34; 1 Samuel 18:6 f. It is a less satisfactory explanation to regard the word as the song of triumph which God puts in the mouth of the singers.
11–14. With a few graphic strokes the poet recalls the victories by which Canaan was won and retained. He refers to the times of the Judges as well as to the original conquest under Joshua.
Kings of armies did flee apace: and she that tarried at home divided the spoil.12. Kings of hosts do flee, do flee,
And she that tarrieth at home divideth the spoil.
Psalm 68:12-14. contain allusions to the Song of Deborah and possibly to similar poems which have not been preserved to us. Many commentators regard them as the triumphal song of the women celebrating the victory; but it is better to take them as the continuation of the poet’s description of the victory. The verses run in pairs, and Psalm 68:13 is parallel to Psalm 68:12. The first line paints the scene in the battle-field—the pell-mell rout of the defeated kings: the second line depicts the scene at home when the warriors have returned with their spoils.
The unusual expression kings of hosts seems to be chosen with reference to the title Jehovah of hosts. Vast as their armies may be, they are powerless to resist One who has infinitely stronger armies at His command. The graphic repetition do flee, do flee recalls the form of Jdg 5:22; and the next line recalls the words of Jdg 5:30. The battle has been won; the warriors return home with their spoils; and the matron who has anxiously awaited the issue of the battle divides among her family the rich garments and ornaments taken from the enemy. Cp. Jdg 8:26; 2 Samuel 1:24; 2 Kings 7:8; 2 Kings 7:15.
Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.13. An extremely difficult verse. It has been suggested that the second and third lines, like the first, are derived from some ancient poem now lost, and that to readers who could recognise the allusion they would be intelligible, though to us they are obscure. The A.V., which appears to contrast the squalid misery of Israel in Egypt with the brilliant prosperity of their new home in Canaan, must be abandoned, and two considerations must govern the interpretation of the verse.
(1) The first line clearly alludes to Jdg 5:16 (cp. Genesis 49:14, R.V.), where Deborah upbraids Reuben for cowardice and irresolution, and for preferring the ignoble ease of pastoral life to the glorious dangers of the war of independence:
“Why satest thou among the sheepfolds,
To hear the pipings for the flocks?”
Lie is here substituted for sit to emphasise the idea of slothful inactivity.
(2) The second and third lines describe under the image of a dove basking in the sunshine an idyllic condition of peace and prosperity. The idea that the dove represents the enemy fleeing in all his gorgeous, splendour, depicted thus as an inducement to Israel to pursue and win rich spoil, may safely be set aside. The point of comparison is the beauty of the dove’s plumage, not the swiftness of its flight.
Three explanations deserve to be taken account of.
(1) Will ye lie among the sheepfolds,
(As) the wings of a dove covered with silver.
And her pinions with yellow gold? (R.V.).
The whole verse, like Jdg 5:16, will then be a reproof of the recreant Israelites who preferred the ignoble ease of their pastoral life to the hardships and dangers of the battlefield. But such a reproof is hardly in place here, nor does this explanation give its full natural meaning to the simile.
(2) More probableis the rendering of R.V. marg.:
When ye lie among the sheepfolds,
(It is as) the wings of a dove … gold.
which regards the verse as a description of the peace and prosperity which await Israel after the victories described in Psalm 68:12. “Everything will gleam and glitter with silver and gold. Israel is God’s turtle-dove (Psalm 74:19), and accordingly the new prosperity is compared to the play of colour on the wings of a dove basking in the sunshine.” (Delitzsch). This interpretation however fails to take account of the allusion in line I to Jdg 5:16.
(3) It seems preferable to render thus:
Though ye may lie among the sheepfolds,
The dove’s wings are covered with silver,
And her pinions with yellow gold.
Though some Israelites may fail in their duty and prefer slothful ease to fighting the battles of Jehovah, yet Israel once more enjoys the blessings of peace and prosperity. In spite of man’s backwardness God gives blessing. This explanation takes account of the allusion to Judges, and gives its proper meaning to the simile. It agrees better with the general purport of the Ps., which dwells upon God’s victories on behalf of His people. It may moreover (if the Psalm dates from the closing years of the Exile) be intended to convey a tacit reproof to those Israelites who were in danger of preferring selfish ease in Babylon to the patriotic effort of the Return. It warns them that God’s purpose for His people would be accomplished, even if they held back from taking part in it.
When the Almighty scattered kings in it, it was white as snow in Salmon.14. Of this verse, as of Psalm 68:13, the meaning is uncertain. Possibly it too is a fragment, significant to those who remembered its original context, but necessarily obscure to us. It is doubtful, too, if the text is sound. In it, R.V. therein, must mean ‘in the land.’ Salmon, R.V. Zalmon, is only known to us as the name of a wooded hill near Shechem, from which Abimelech fetched wood to burn the tower of Shechem (Jdg 9:48). But the name, which means ‘dark’ or ‘shady’ (cp. Black Mountain, Black Forest), may have been borne by other mountains. If Zalmon near Shechem is intended, it may be mentioned either as a central point in the land, or from its connexion with some historical incident of which no record has been preserved, or simply to heighten the picturesqueness of the simile by representing the snowstorm as seen against the background of the dark mountain. Shaddai, ‘The Almighty’, only occurs once again in the Psalter (Psalm 91:1).
(1) Taking the second line as a simile, we may render with R.V.,
When the Almighty scattered kings therein,
(It was as when) it snoweth in Zalmon.
But what is meant by the simile? It has been supposed to refer to the bones of the enemy bleaching on the field of battle (cp. Verg. Aen. xii. 36, campiqiu ingentes ossibus albent: “The vast plains are white with bones”): or to the glistening of the armour &c. dropped by the fugitives in their flight: but it is far more suggestive to think, not of fallen snow lying on the ground, but of falling snow. The snowflakes driven before the storm are an apt emblem of the kings driven in pell-mell flight by the breath of the Lord, and this explanation suits the context. By the thought of the victory won for Israel by God in spite of the sloth of many an Israelite (Psalm 68:13) the poet is naturally carried back to the battle-scene, and desires to emphasise the fact that the Almighty had fought for Israel, sweeping the foe before Him like the snowflakes swept along by the hurricane.
(2) Taking the second line literally, we may render with R.V. marg., It snowed in Zalmon. The words will then refer to a snowstorm which accompanied and completed the rout of the kings. They can scarcely refer to the hardships endured by those who took up arms amid the rigours of an exceptionally severe winter, in contrast to the luxurious ease of the cowards who are chidden in Psalm 68:13; still less can they be the words of those cowards excusing themselves from taking part in the war by the severity of the weather.
(3) Some combine the literal and figurative explanations, interpreting it snowed in Zalmon to mean that “the mountain clothed itself in a bright garment of light in celebration of the joyful event. Whoever has been in Palestine knows how refreshing is the sight of the distant mountain peaks covered with snow.” This however is too far-fetched an explanation to be probable.
The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan; an high hill as the hill of Bashan.15. A mountain of God is the mountain of Bashan:
An high-peaked mountain is the mountain of Bashan.
Mount Hermon is probably meant, rather than the mountains of Bashan generally. It is the grandest of the mountains of Palestine, and was the northern boundary of Bashan (Deuteronomy 3:8). It has three summits of nearly equal height. Its natural preeminence seemed to mark it as a mountain of God, a mountain worthy to be the abode of God; and the early conquest of Bashan seemed to confirm its prior claim.
15–18. After the conquest of the land, God chose for His abode not the stately mountains of Bashan, whose natural preeminence might seem to mark them out for that privilege, but the insignificant hill of Zion.
Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the LORD will dwell in it for ever.16. Why look ye enviously, ye high-peaked mountains,
At the mountain which God hath desired for his abode?
Yea, Jehovah will dwell in it for ever.
The grander mountains of Bashan, not Hermon only, but the rugged basaltic mountains which rise in precipitous peaks, suggesting ideas of majesty, antiquity, impregnability, are represented as looking enviously upon the insignificant mountain of Zion which God has chosen for His earthly dwelling-place. Sinai had been his temporary abode (Exodus 24:16); on Zion He will dwell for ever. Cp. 1 Kings 8:12-13. The choice of Zion is a parable of the method of God’s dealings with men. Cp. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.
The A.V. why leap ye comes from the Targ., and assumes that the root rtsd, occurring here only, is synonymous with rqd, used in a similar apostrophe, Psalm 114:4; Psalm 114:6. But it is certainly to be explained from the meaning of the same root in Arabic.
The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.17. The chariots of God are in myriads, yea thousands upon thousands.
God is represented as entering Zion in triumph with a vast retinue of the heavenly hosts. His chariots are not simply ‘twice ten thousand’ but ‘counted by tens of thousands’ (this is the idiomatic force of the dual termination), explained further as ‘thousands of repetition,’ i.e. thousands upon thousands. Cp. Daniel 7:10. The A.V. angels is traceable ultimately to the paraphrase of the Targ., suggested by such passages as Deuteronomy 33:2, but resting on no philological basis. The LXX χιλιάδες εὐθηνούντων, Vulg. millia laetantium, ‘thousands of joyous ones,’ presumes a slightly different reading, but was probably intended to give the same meaning.
the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place] Or, in the sanctuary (R.V.); or in holiness. But as the words as in are not in the text, the rendering Sinai is in the sanctuary (R.V. marg.), or, It is Sinai in holiness, is preferable. With either rendering the sense will be substantially the same. The glory and majesty which were revealed at Sinai are now transferred to God’s new abode. He comes surrounded as it were by an environment of holiness. Cp. Deuteronomy 33:2. For the use of the name of a place to convey all the associations of the place cp. Micah 6:5, where “remember from Shittim unto Gilgal” means “remember all that happened there and in the interval.”
Many commentators adopt a slight emendation of the text, and read The Lord is come from Sinai into the sanctuary (or, in holiness), a reminiscence of Deuteronomy 33:2. From Sinai, the scene of His first great self-revelation to Israel, He comes to Zion, which He has chosen for His permanent abode. But the corruption of the text if it is faulty must be anterior to all existing versions: and the proposed reading has a somewhat prosaic ring.
Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.18. Thou hast ascended on high] Lit. thou hast gone up to the height. Cp. Psalm 147:5. ‘The height’ elsewhere means heaven, though we find such a phrase as ‘the height of Zion’ (Jeremiah 31:12).Probably the poet did not make any sharp distinction between the triumphant return of Jehovah to heaven (as we speak), and the triumphant procession to His earthly abode which was the symbol of it.
thou hast led captivity captive] For the phrase cp. Jdg 5:12. ‘Captivity’ is not, as the English reader might suppose, a personification of the hostile powers which had led Israel captive, but the abstract for the concrete, equivalent to a body of captives. To obviate misunderstanding, R.V. gives ‘thy captivity.’ The captive enemies of Israel are meant, not, as some modern commentators suppose, referring to Isaiah 24:21 ff., rebellious heavenly powers, nor, as Kay thinks, the Israelites themselves, though 2 Corinthians 2:14 (R.V.) would give a good parallel for this meaning.
thou hast received gifts for men] An impossible rendering, influenced probably by the quotation in Ephesians 4:8. R.V. rightly, among men. The ‘gifts’ offered to the king as Jehovah’s representative and appropriated to the service of the Temple (2 Samuel 8:2; 2 Samuel 8:6; 2 Samuel 8:11; 1 Kings 4:21), are regarded as offered to Him as the real Conqueror.
yea, for the rebellious also] R.V., Yea, (among) the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell (with them): marg., there. ‘The rebellious’ are commonly understood to be the heathen, who pay homage to Jehovah, and dwell under His protection. But (see note on Psalm 68:6) the term is generally applied to the Israelites; and the line may be rendered, Yea, even the stubborn (are content) to dwell with Jah Elohim. Even the successors (in spirit) of the stubborn and rebellious generation of the wilderness are subdued when they see Jehovah’s triumphs, and are content to become His obedient subjects. For construction and thought cp. Psalm 5:4; Isaiah 33:14. Another alternative is to take Jah as the subject of the infin., Yea, even the stubborn (are content) that Jah Elohim should dwell (among them). Cp. Psalm 78:60; Exodus 25:8; &c. So apparently the LXX.
St Paul quotes this verse in Ephesians 4:8 in the form, “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men,” applying it to the spiritual gifts showered upon the Church by the risen and ascended Christ. How came he to substitute “gave gifts unto men” for “received gifts among men”? The Targum paraphrases the verse thus; “Thou didst ascend to the firmament, O prophet Moses! thou didst lead captivity captive; thou didst teach the words of the law; thou didst give gifts to the sons of men.” Similarly the Syriac, which may have been influenced by Jewish exegesis, has, “Thou didst give gifts to the sons of men.” Now though the Targum in its present form is much later than St Paul’s time, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the oral paraphrase then current already interpreted the verse in this way, and St Paul quotes it in the form familiar to him, without pausing to think whether it was an exact rendering of the original or not. But though the quotation is not verbally exact it is deeply significant. The triumph of Jehovah over the enemies of Israel prefigured the triumph of Christ over the spiritual enemies of the Church: or rather may we not say more truly that they are both parts of the same divine plan of redemption working first in the natural and then in the spiritual order? Christ ascended up to heaven, leading the defeated powers of evil in triumph (Colossians 2:15). There He performs a yet more royal function than receiving gifts from men, (though of course it would be also true to say that He receives gifts); He bestows them. Spiritual victory corresponds to temporal: the bestowal of gifts of grace to the reception of gifts of homage. For a full discussion of the passage see Driver in The Expositor, 1889, i. pp. 20 ff.
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.19. Blessed be the Lord] We are again reminded of the Song of Deborah, Jdg 5:2; Jdg 5:9.
who daily loadeth us with benefits] Better, as R.V., who daily beareth our burden: or, as Aq., Symm., Jer. and Targ., who daily beareth us. In Isaiah 46:3-4, the same word is used in the phrase, “O house of Jacob … which have been borne by me”: and in Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 1:31; Psalm 28:9; the idea, though not the word, is the same. The R.V. marg. Blessed be the Lord day by day: if one oppresseth us, God is our salvation, involves the abandonment of the traditional accentuation, and gives a less satisfactory sense.
even the God of our salvation] In order to avoid the appearance of a grammatical blunder, the R.V. gives, Even the God who is our salvation. The whole verse might be rendered more exactly and forcibly:
Blessed be the Lord; day by day he beareth our burden:
God is our salvation.
On the position of Selah see note on Psalm 68:7.
19–23. The second part of the Psalm (19–35) begins here. From reviewing the triumphs of God in the past the Psalmist turns to the present and the future. God is an ever-present Saviour; He will take vengeance on the enemies of His people.
He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death.20. God is unto us a God of deliverances;
And unto JEHOVAH the Lord belong the issues from death.
The plural denotes mighty and manifold deliverances. Cp. Psalm 44:4. God is printed in capital letters in the A.V. because it represents the sacred Name, for which Elôhîm, ‘God,’ was substituted by the Jews in reading, when Adônai, ‘Lord’ (the regular substitute) is joined with it. Even in regard to death God can provide ways of escape (cp. 1 Corinthians 10:13). In the uttermost extremity of peril, when death seems inevitable, He can devise means of deliverance. Nay, though Israel as a nation seems to lie dead in exile, He can bring it forth from that grave and give it new life (1 Samuel 2:6; Hosea 6:2; Ezekiel 37:1 ff.).
But God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses.21. But God shall wound the head &c.) Yea, God shall smite through the head &c. Cp. Jdg 5:26; Habakkuk 3:13-14.
and the hairy scalp] Omit and. The warrior’s long hair is mentioned not merely as “a sign of exuberant strength and impenitent pride,” but in allusion to the ancient practice of allowing the hair to grow when a vow had been undertaken. “With warriors in primitive times the unshorn head was a usual mark of their consecration to the work they had undertaken, and their locks remained untouched till they had achieved their enterprise or had perished in the attempt. War among most primitive peoples is a sacred function.” J. S. Black in the Smaller Cambr. Bible for Schools, on Jdg 5:2, which should be rendered
“For that flowing locks were worn in Israel,
For that the people volunteered themselves, bless ye the Lord,”
i.e. give thanks for the zeal with which the people devoted themselves to the sacred war of independence. Cp. Deuteronomy 32:42, where “from the beginning of revenges on the enemy” should be rendered “from the hairy head of the enemy.”
of such a one &c.] According to strict grammar, the hairy scalp that goeth on in his guiltiness, the scalp standing by metonymy for the man. The verb expresses the idea of open and defiant persistence.
The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea:22. The Lord said] The Psalmist either quotes some ancient promise, like that of Numbers 21:34, or proclaims a fresh message from God with the authority and in the language of a prophet:—The Lord saith. But what is the object of the verb I will bring again? (1) If with A.V. we supply my people, the meaning will be that God will bring the Israelites back to their own land from all the places in which they have been scattered, in order that they may witness a complete and final triumph over their enemies (cp. Micah 4:11-13). This is the interpretation of the Targ., and Delitzsch quotes from the Talmud a touching story which shews that it was current in early times. When, after the destruction of Jerusalem, a number of young and noble captives were being conveyed by ship to Rome, where a fate worse than death awaited them, they all flung themselves from the ship into the sea, trusting to the promise of these words. (2) But the context makes it more natural to supply, as R.V., them, i.e. the enemies spoken of in Psalm 68:21; Psalm 68:23. Though they hide themselves in the rock fastnesses of Bashan, nay in the very depths of the sea, they shall not escape, but be brought back to suffer a righteous vengeance. Cp. Amos 9:2-3, where Jehovah warns the sinful Israelites that no hidingplace will avail to shelter them from judgement. Bashan may be mentioned with allusion to Og, the depths of the sea with allusion to Pharaoh (Exodus 15:4 ff.).
That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same.23. That thou mayest dip thy foot in blood,
That the tongue of thy dogs may have its portion from (thine) enemies.
This rendering of the R.V. probably gives the right sense, though the Heb. presents some difficulties. For dip should probably be read wash, as in Psalm 58:10, which passage (with the notes) should be compared. The thought of the approaching vengeance upon the enemies of Israel is a prominent one in Isaiah 40-66. See e.g. Isaiah 41:15 f.; Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 63:1 ff. The judgement of the oppressor is in fact the necessary condition of the deliverance of the oppressed, indispensable moreover as the vindication of God’s eternal justice.
They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary.24. They have seen] The subject is significantly indefinite: it includes all men, who have been the spectators of the conflict between God and His enemies. Cp. Psalm 98:1-3; Isaiah 40:5.
thy goings] The festal procession which celebrates God’s victory on behalf of His people. He comes in triumph once more, as He came of old.
my King] The title is significant. He has again placed Himself at the head of His people and victoriously manifested His sovereignty. Cp. Psalm 44:4; Psalm 74:12.
in the sanctuary] R.V. into the sanctuary, retaining A.V. in the marg. The preposition implies His rest there after His entry. It is possible also to render as in Psalm 68:17, in holiness (R.V. marg. alt.). His triumph is the vindication of that holiness which is His supreme attribute and distinguishes all His action. Cp. Exodus 15:11; Psalm 77:13.
24–27. These verses describe a solemn procession of thanksgiving to the Temple. But is it past, present, or future? Delitzsch is right when he says that it is “not the rejoicing over a victory lately won, not the rejoicing over the deliverance at the Red Sea in the days of old, but the rejoicing of Israel when it shall have seen the judicial and redemptive act of its God and King.” It is an ‘ideal’ description. The poet’s imagination springs forward to the great celebration of the victory described in Psalm 68:21-23. It rises before his eyes as an actual fact.
The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; among them were the damsels playing with timbrels.25. the players on instruments] R.V. as P.B.V., the minstrels.
among them were the damsels] An ungrammatical rendering. R.V. rightly, in the midst of the damsels. On either side of the procession of singers and minstrels playing upon stringed instruments were the damsels beating their timbrels (tambourines or hand-drums), as they danced joyously along. The scene recalls the thanksgiving by the Red Sea (Exodus 15:20), when “Miriam took a timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dances,” for “the deliverance which is being celebrated is the counterpart of the deliverance from Egypt.” (Delitzsch.)
Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel.26. This verse is best regarded as a part of the processional hymn. Cp. Jdg 5:2; Jdg 5:9.
from the fountain of Israel] Kay and Cheyne compare Psalm 118:26, Psalm 135:21, and suppose that ‘the fountain of Israel’ is the Temple. But it is better to render with R.V., and A.V. marg., (ye that are) of the fountain of Israel; the patriarch being regarded as the fountain-head from which the nation is derived. Cp. Isaiah 48:1, “O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah”; Psalm 51:1-2; and Deuteronomy 33:28. The address reminds them of the privileges of their ancestry. It is however possible that the preposition from is an accidental repetition of the initial letter of the word for ‘fountain,’ and should be omitted. ‘The fountain of Israel’ will then be the Lord Himself, the source of His people’s life. Cp. Jeremiah 2:13; Jeremiah 17:13; Psalm 36:9. The P.B.V. (Great Bible, not Coverdale) Give thanks, O Israel, unto God the Lord in the congregations, from the ground of the heart appears to be due to a misunderstanding of Münster’s In congregalionibus benedicite deo atque domino ex origine (cordis) Israel, Israel being wrongly taken as a vocative.
There is little Benjamin with their ruler, the princes of Judah and their council, the princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali.27. The representatives of four tribes are specified as taking part in the procession. Judah and Benjamin naturally represent the South. Jerusalem was on the boundary between them; and the Temple was in the territory assigned to Benjamin (Deuteronomy 33:12; Joshua 18:16), which may account for the place of honour being assigned to it. But why are Zebulun and Naphtali selected to represent the North? Is it as a recognition of their heroic patriotism commemorated in the Song of Deborah (Jdg 5:18) of which this Psalm contains so many reminiscences? or is it (on the assumption of the exilic date of the Psalm) an allusion to the prophecy of Isaiah (Isaiah 11:1), that just those tribes which had suffered most severely from the first Assyrian invasion should be restored to honour? This, if the exilic date of the Psalm is adopted, is the most obvious explanation. The prophets from Amos (Amos 9:11 ff.) and Hosea (Hosea 3:5) onward, foretold the restoration of Israel as well as Judah, and their reunion into one state, and the Psalmist sees this hope visibly fulfilled in the festal procession. It may be noted that in Jeremiah 3:17-18, the restoration of the reunited people is placed in close connexion with the conflux of the nations to worship at Jerusalem of which the Psalmist goes on to speak in Psalm 68:28 ff. It is important to remember that the Israelites who returned from Babylon regarded themselves as representing the whole nation, and not the kingdom of Judah only. Cp. Ezra 8:35; Psalm 122:4.
little Benjamin with their ruler] Omit with. Benjamin is called little as the youngest of the sons of Jacob, and the smallest of the tribes in population and territory (1 Samuel 9:21). Their ruler is explained by the Targ. as an allusion to Saul’s kingship; “There was Benjamin, small among the tribes, who first went down into the [Red] Sea, and therefore first received the kingdom”: by others it is supposed to mean ‘conducting them.’ The word is obscure and possibly corrupt.
and their council] Or, company.
Thy God hath commanded thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us.28. Thy God &c.] Israel is addressed; the first line is a summary statement of past experience, introduced as the ground of the prayer which follows. In past times God has given Israel strength; therefore Israel can now pray with confidence for the renewal and continuance of His support. But the Ancient Versions (LXX, Vulg., Symm., Jer. (some mss.), Syr., Targ.) read (the difference in the verb is simply in the vowels), O God, command thy strength: i.e. give charge to Thy power, put it forth. Cp. Psalm 42:8; Psalm 44:4. This suits the parallelism better, and avoids the abrupt and isolated address to Israel.
Strengthen, O God &c.] This rendering is grammatically questionable, and the R.V. marg. is to be preferred: Be strong, O God, thou that hast wrought for us; i.e. shew Thyself strong as in time past. Cp. Isaiah 26:12.
28–31. The purpose and sequel of the restoration of Israel is the conversion of the world; and the Psalmist now prays that God will display His strength and subdue all opposition, and sees the noblest of the nations hastening to pay Him homage.
Because of thy temple at Jerusalem shall kings bring presents unto thee.29. Because of thy temple at Jerusalem] To the age of the Return the restored Temple was the visible symbol and proof that Jehovah had come back to His ancient dwelling-place (Psalm 122:9). It was to be the occasion and the centre of fresh homage. Cp. Isaiah 60:7 ff; Isaiah 66:20; Haggai 2:7; Zechariah 2:11 ff; Zechariah 6:15; Zechariah 8:21 ff.
From thy temple however is a more natural rendering than because of thy temple; and it is possible that the words should be joined with the preceding verse—either thus, thou that hast wrought for us out of thy temple; or better still, shew thyself strong, thou who hast wrought for us, out of My temple; cp. Psalm 110:2. The next line will then begin: Up to Jerusalem shall kings &c.
 The pausal form of the word מֵהֵיכָלֶךָ out of thy temple, looks like the trace of a tradition that the verses were once so divided.
bring presents] A phrase used only in Psalm 76:11; Isaiah 18:7, of bringing solemn tribute to God.
Rebuke the company of spearmen, the multitude of the bulls, with the calves of the people, till every one submit himself with pieces of silver: scatter thou the people that delight in war.30. the company of spearmen] Better as R.V., the wild beast of the reeds, i.e. the crocodile, or rather, the hippopotamus, which is described in Job 40:21 as lying “in the covert of the reed.” It is a symbolical designation of Egypt, which is mentioned either as the typical enemy of Israel, or with reference to circumstances of the time.
the multitude of Me bulls, with the calves of the people] R.V. peoples. The kings or leaders of heathen nations, followed by their peoples as the calves of the herd follow the bulls. Cp. Jeremiah 46:20-21, R.V. ‘Bulls’ suggests the idea of proud defiance; ‘calves’ that of comfortable security.
till every one submit himself with pieces of silver] Lit. as R.V. marg., Every one submitting himself &c. Their proud spirits are subdued by the irresistible divine ‘rebuke’ (Psalm 76:6; Isaiah 17:13); they prostrate themselves in the dust before the Lord of the world, and offer tribute of their wealth. Cp. Isaiah 60:9. This gives a fair sense, but the construction is difficult. The difficulty is avoided by the rendering of R.V., which makes the participle refer to God: Trampling under foot the pieces of silver, i.e. spurning the tribute which they bring Thee. The true meaning is however quite uncertain, and the text is very possibly corrupt. The Ancient Versions vary greatly, some of them pointing to varieties of reading. Of the host of modern emendations, one may be mentioned which only requires alteration of the vowel points: ‘Trampling under foot them that delight in silver’; but it can hardly be pronounced satisfactory.
scatter thou &c.] The Massoretic Text reads: He bath scattered the peoples: a ‘prophetic perfect,’ realising the triumph of God over all opposition as already complete. But it suits the context better to read the imperative with LXX and Jer., scatter thou. The difference is one of vocalisation only.
Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.31. Princes] Or, magnates. LXX πρέσβεις, ambassadors. The word occurs here only, and is of doubtful meaning.
shall soon stretch out &c.] R.V., shall haste to stretch out her hands unto God, either in token of submission (cp. Lat. dare manus); or in supplication (cp. Isaiah 45:14); or with gifts of homage (Psalm 72:10; Isaiah 18:7). Egypt and Ethiopia are often coupled together, and they are mentioned here as examples of the nations which come to pay homage, the one as the typical ancient enemy of Israel (cp. Isaiah 19:19 ff.), the other as a remote nation of noble appearance and formidable reputation (Isaiah 18:1; Isaiah 18:7). Cp. Isaiah 45:14. Their submission signifies that the most inveterate foes of God and His people, and the most remote and the noblest of the peoples of the world, acknowledge His supremacy. Morians in P.B.V. means ‘Moors,’ ‘blackamoors,’ the Heb. Cush being taken as a general term for ‘Africans.’
Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord; Selah:32. The kingdoms of the earth are invited to reecho Israel’s chorus of praise, Psalm 68:4. Cp. Revelation 11:15 The musical interlude (Selah) may suggest the outbreak of the chorus of universal praise.
32–35. All nations are summoned to unite in praising Israel’s God.
To him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens, which were of old; lo, he doth send out his voice, and that a mighty voice.33. To him that rideth &c.] The same God who “rides through the deserts” (Psalm 68:4) when He intervenes in human affairs is supremely exalted in the highest heavens (Deuteronomy 10:14; 1 Kings 8:27; Nehemiah 9:6), which like the mountains (Deuteronomy 33:15) are of primeval antiquity.
which were of old] Better, with R.V., which are of old. Cp. Wordsworth’s “the most ancient heavens.”
he doth send out his voice] R.V., he uttereth his voice, as Psalm 46:6. Cp. Psalm 29:3 ff.; Isaiah 30:30.
Ascribe ye strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in the clouds.34. Ascribe &c.] Lit. as in Psalm 29:1, give. Acknowledge by the tribute of your praises the power which is His and which He exercises in the world.
His excellency, or majesty, is over Israel to protect and bless, and his strength is in the skies, supreme not on earth alone, but throughout the universe. This and the last verse are based upon Deuteronomy 32:26,
“There is none like God (El), O Jeshurun,
Who rideth upon the heavens as thy help,
And in his excellency on the skies.”
O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God.35. O God, thou art terrible &c.] This rendering is retained in R.V., but grammar requires us to render (cp. R.V. marg.); Terrible is God out of thy sanctuary. Israel is addressed: and the verse is the answer of the nations to the summons of Psalm 68:34, acknowledging the awful might (Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 10:17; Psalm 47:2) which God displays from His sanctuary in the midst of Israel (cp. Psalm 68:29 note), recognising Him as the source of Israel’s preeminence, and in conclusion reechoing Israel’s watchword of praise, Blessed be God. Simpler but less forcible is the reading of LXX and Jer., out of his sanctuary, making the verse the Psalmist’s own conclusion.
thy holy places] Better, thy sanctuary, as the word is generally rendered (Exodus 15:17; Psalm 78:69; Psalm 96:6, &c.). The plural is an idiomatic plural of ‘extension’ or ‘amplification,’ denoting the various parts of the Temple, or its dignity.
the God of Israel is he that giveth] Better as R.V., the God of Israel, he giveth &c.
power] Or, mightiness. The subst. is found here only, but the adj. is common, cp. Deuteronomy 4:38; Isaiah 60:22.
unto his people] Cp. Psalm 29:11; Isaiah 40:29. Lit., the people, which stands out among the nations of the world as the people of His choice.
Thus the Psalmist’s outlook reaches forward to the final triumph celebrated in the Apocalyptic song, Revelation 15:3 f.