Psalm 75
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
In one of his prophecies of the approaching judgement which was to shatter the power of Assyria and set Israel free, Isaiah compares the rejoicings with which the deliverance would be celebrated to the rejoicings of the Passover festival. “Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy feast is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the Lord, to the Rock of Israel” (Isaiah 30:29). Of such songs this and the following Psalm may well—like Psalms 46-48 in the Korahite collection—be examples. They are closely connected in thought and language[40], and may naturally be referred, if not to the same author, at least to the same period. They speak of a great act of judgement, by which God had condemned the proud pretensions of some boastful enemy; of a supernatural annihilation of the hostile forces which had threatened Zion, the city of His choice, whereby He had manifested His Presence and power among His people. The destruction of Sennacherib’s army was just such an act of judgement, such a direct intervention on behalf of Zion. Sennacherib, like Pharaoh, had challenged Jehovah to a trial of strength; and through the Assyrian prophecies of Isaiah there runs the thought that it was a crisis comparable to the Exodus, and second only to the Exodus in importance. These Psalms are full of coincidences—indirect rather than direct—with Isaiah’s prophecies of that period, and they breathe an intensity of feeling which indicates that the poet himself had experienced that crisis of uttermost peril and marvellous deliverance. The addition in the LXX title of Psalms 76, ‘A song with reference to the Assyrians,’ whether due to tradition or conjecture, shews that the Psalm was at an early date connected with the deliverance from Sennacherib.

[40] Comp. Psalm 75:1 with Psalm 76:1, the name of God; Psalm 75:9 with Psalm 76:6, the God of Jacob: Psalm 75:2; Psalm 75:7 with Psalm 76:8-9; and the general tone of triumph and thanksgiving which pervades both.

Some commentators have supposed that these Psalms celebrate Maccabaean victories, such as those of Judas over Apollonius (1Ma 3:10 ff.) and Seron (1Ma 3:13 ff.). But the general improbability of the presence of Maccabaean Psalms in the Elohistic collection has already been pointed out, and there is nothing in the Psalms themselves to support this view. They speak of a signal Divine judgement supernaturally inflicted, rather than of victories won like those of Judas, not indeed without special help from God, but still by the valour of his soldiers.

The position of these Psalms is significant. Following as they do upon the urgent appeal of Psalms 74, they supply an answer to it. “Remember,” the compiler of the collection seems to say, “how in one supreme crisis God proved His power to help His people.”

Psalms 75 is cast into a vividly dramatic form, and speaks in a tone of prophetic authority.

i. The people address God with thanksgiving for the recent manifestation of His power on their behalf (Psalm 75:1). God speaks in answer, assuring them that ever and anon at the fitting moment He exercises judgement: though all may seem confusion and men’s hearts fail them, He maintains the order which He has established in the world (Psalm 75:2-3).

ii. Fortified by this Divine utterance, the Psalmist addresses the proud enemies of Israel, warning them against presumptuous boasting, for Israel looks to no human ally for help, but to God the judge, the sovereign arbiter of human destiny, Who holds in His hands the cup of judicial wrath to administer to those who resist His will (Psalm 75:4-8).

iii. While the wicked are thus punished, Israel (on whose behalf the Psalmist speaks) will offer unceasing praise to God; confident that the power of the wicked will be utterly destroyed, and the righteous be brought to honour (Psalm 75:9-10).

Compare the Song of Hannah, 1 Samuel 2:1-10. On the title, For the Chief Musician; set to Al-tashchçth. A Psalm of Asaph, a Song; see Introd. pp. xxi, xxvii, and Introd. to Psalms 57.

To the chief Musician, Altaschith, A Psalm or Song of Asaph. Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks: for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare.
1. The theme of the Psalm: thanksgiving for the recent manifestation of God’s presence and power among His people.

for that thy name is near thy wondrous works declare] The A.V., retained in R.V. marg., gives a good sense, but such a personification of God’s wondrous works is without analogy, and elsewhere ‘wondrous works’ is always the object to ‘declare’ or similar verbs. Hence it is better to render with R.V.:

We give thanks unto thee, O God;

We give thanks, for thy name is near:

Men tell of thy wondrous works.

God’s ‘Name’ is the compendious expression for His Being as it is revealed to men. Cp. the striking parallel in Isaiah’s prediction of the coming judgement on the Assyrians (Isaiah 30:27 ff.), a passage which should be carefully studied in connexion with this Psalm, “Behold the name of Jehovah cometh from far.” Though God is always ‘near’ (Deuteronomy 4:7), yet in an especial sense He is ‘near’ when He manifests His presence (Psalm 34:18; Psalm 145:18). men tell &c.] God’s miracles of deliverance (Psalm 9:1; Psalm 71:17, note) are in every one’s mouth.

When I shall receive the congregation I will judge uprightly.
2. When I reach the appointed time,

I Judge uprightly.

The ‘appointed time’ (Psalm 102:13; Habakkuk 2:3; Acts 17:31) is the proper moment foreordained in the Divine counsels and known to God. The intervention of Jehovah at the moment when the Assyrians are ripe for judgement is a favourite thought with Isaiah (Isaiah 10:32-33; Isaiah 18:4-5).

The second I is emphatic: I, whatever men may do; I, whatever men may think.

2, 3. God speaks, as in Psalm 46:10, and His words are virtually an answer to men’s thoughts. Men may have thought that He had abdicated His function as Judge of all the earth: not so: He was only waiting for the fitting moment for action.

The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. Selah.
3. The first line virtually forms the protasis of the sentence: Though the earth &c.; I have set up the pillars of it. Though all the world is in terror and confusion, I (emphatic) have established a moral order in it. The material world is often compared to a building with its foundations and pillars (1 Samuel 2:8; Job 9:6; Job 38:4 ff.); and the moral world is described by the same figure. Cp. Psalm 11:3; Psalm 82:5.

I bear up] Lit. I have proportioned, or, adjusted by line and measure. The rendering of R.V. marg., When the earth … I set up, will mean that when confusion reigns, God re-establishes order: but it is better to understand the perfect tense (I have set up) of the fundamental laws which God has from the first ordained.

I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: and to the wicked, Lift not up the horn:
4. I say unto the arrogant, Deal not arrogantly. Cp. Psalm 73:3; Psalm 5:5. Rabshakeh and his colleagues and the Assyrians in general were the very type of such boastful, defiant arrogance (Isaiah 37:23; Isaiah 10:7 ff.; Nahum 1:11).

Lift not up the horn] A metaphor, derived from animals tossing their heads, to denote overweening, defiant self-consciousness of strength.

4, 5. A warning to all presumptuous braggarts, based on the Divine utterances of Psalm 75:2-3. It is disputed whether the speaker is still God, as in Psalm 75:2-3, or the poet, but the latter alternative is preferable. The interposition of Selah marks the end of the Divine speech, and I said naturally introduces a fresh speaker. Moreover there is no break between Psalm 75:5 and Psalm 75:6, but it is clear that God is no longer speaking in Psalm 75:6-7.

Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck.
5. speak not with a stiff neck] Better, as R.V. marg., Speak not insolently with a haughty neck. Cp. 1 Samuel 2:3; and for neck = haughty neck, see Job 15:26. Not should not have been italicised in A.V. A single negative governs both clauses in the Heb. though our idiom requires its repetition. There is an interesting various reading in the LXX, “Speak not unrighteousness against God.” They read in their text the word for Rock, which differs by only one consonant from the word for neck (צוארצור); and it is noteworthy that this title of God occurs in Isaiah 30:29. Cp. Habakkuk 1:12.

For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.
6. According to one reading of the Heb. text we must render,

For neither from the east, nor from the west,

Nor yet from the wilderness, (cometh) lifting up.

The wilderness, to the S. of Palestine, stands for the south: and the sense is, Exalt not yourselves, for exaltation comes from no quarter of the compass, but from God. But it is better to follow a slightly different reading, which is that of all the Ancient Versions except the Targum, and render the second line, Nor yet from the wilderness of mountains, (cometh our help). The sentence is an aposiopesis, to be completed with words such as those of Psalm 121:1-2. Israel looks not to any quarter of the compass for human help, but to God alone. The North is not mentioned because the Assyrians were approaching from that quarter.

6–8. The reason for this warning. Israel looks to God alone for help, and He is the supreme arbiter of human destinies.

But God is the judge: he putteth down one, and setteth up another.
7. the judge] Cp. Isaiah 33:22.

setteth up] Lifteth up. Cp. 1 Samuel 2:6-7; Psalm 147:6.

For in the hand of the LORD there is a cup, and the wine is red; it is full of mixture; and he poureth out of the same: but the dregs thereof, all the wicked of the earth shall wring them out, and drink them.
8. The judgement is described under the figure of a cup of wine, which God gives the wicked to drink. The figure is a common one. See Jeremiah 25:15 ff., Jeremiah 25:27 ff.; Jeremiah 49:12; Jeremiah 51:7; Isaiah 51:17 ff.; Job 21:20; Psalm 11:6; Psalm 60:3. is red] Or, foameth (R.V.). mixture] Herbs and spices to make it more seductive and intoxicating.

but the dregs &c.] Surely the dregs thereof all the wicked of the earth shall drain up and drink. They must drink the draught of God’s wrath to the last drop. Cp. Isaiah 51:17. Rosenmüller quotes in illustration from an Arabic poet, “We gave the Hudheilites the cup of death to drink, whose dregs are confusion, disgrace, and shame.”

But I will declare for ever; I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
9. But as for me, I will declare for ever. It is easy to supply ‘thy wondrous works.’ But the LXX reads (with change of one letter) I will rejoice, which may be right. Cp. Psalm 9:14; Isaiah 29:19.

For ever may mean ‘while life lasts’ (1 Samuel 1:22): or is he speaking as the representative of the immortal people?

9, 10. The vow of praise and the assurance of triumph.

All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.
10. will I cut off] If the poet is the speaker, he speaks in the name of Israel, confident that in God’s strength they will be able to complete the humiliation of their proud foes. Cp. Micah 4:13. But the speaker may be God, answering the vow of praise with a fresh promise. Cp. Psalm 46:10. For the figure cp. Zechariah 1:18 ff.

shall be exalted] Shall be lifted up (R.V.). Cp. 1 Samuel 2:10. ‘The righteous one’ is Israel, righteous by contrast with the wicked Assyrians. Cp. Habakkuk 1:13.

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