Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
This Psalm is the prelude to the remarkable group of ‘theocratic Psalms’ 95–100, and should be studied in connexion with them. Jehovah had from the first been Israel’s king (Exodus 15:18; Deuteronomy 33:5; 1 Samuel 12:12), but when He abandoned His people to their enemies He seemed to have abdicated His throne. Now however He has reassumed His royal state, and once more proclaimed Himself King. The prophecy of Isaiah 52:7 has been fulfilled. The poet takes up the watchword, Thy God hath proclaimed Himself king, and in the judgement of Babylon and the restoration of Israel he sees the proof of Jehovah’s sovereignty not over Israel only but over all the world. The heaving waves of the sea of nations may lash themselves into wild fury against the rock of His throne, but it stands eternally unmoved.
This and the other ‘theocratic’ Psalms have sometimes been interpreted as prophetic pictures of the final advent of Jehovah, the “one far-off divine event, to which the whole creation moves.” But it is far more natural to regard them as thanksgivings for some actual event by which Jehovah’s sovereignty had been visibly declared. It can hardly be doubted that this event was the Return from Babylon, and that this group of Psalms belongs to the early days of the Restoration. It was in truth a great ‘day of Jehovah’; and if in eager faith Prophets and Psalmists spoke of it as though the final revelation of His power had already come, they did but speak as the prophets of an earlier age who looked for the Messiah as the Deliverer from the troubles of their own day, or the Apostles who anticipated the Return of the Lord in their own lifetime. They foreshortened the perspective of the glorious vision that was presented to their view, and it was only as years rolled on that men learned that the purposes which are eternally present to the mind of God can only be realised on the stage of the world’s history by slow degrees.
In the LXX is prefixed the title, For the day before the sabbath, when the land [or earth] had been filled with inhabitants: a praise-song of David. The latter part of this title is valueless: the first part is confirmed by the Talmudic tradition. Psalms 93 was in fact the Psalm for Friday in the service of the Second Temple (see Introd. p. xxvii), and the reason given in the Talmud is that on the sixth day God finished the work of creation, and began to reign over it. The title in the LXX, ὅτε κατῴκισται ἡ γῆ, may, as Delitzsch supposes, reflect this tradition, and mean when the earth was filled with inhabitants. But it may equally well mean when the land was peopled, i.e. after the return from the Exile. Cp. the Sept. title of Psalms 97; and for the use of κατοικίζειν see LXX of Jeremiah 17:25, κατοικισθήσεται ἡ πόλις αὔτη εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.
The LORD reigneth, he is clothed with majesty; the LORD is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself: the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.1. Jehovah hath proclaimed himself king; he hath robed himself with majesty;
Jehovah hath robed himself, hath girded himself with strength.
The verbs in the perfect tense express not merely a fact (Jehovah reigneth) but an act. For a time, while His city was in ruins and His people in exile, He seemed to have divested Himself of the insignia of royalty and abdicated His throne. The ancient promise of Exodus 15:18 seemed to have failed. But now He has once more vindicated His sovereignty by the deliverance of His people and the judgement of their enemies. The prophet’s prayer (Isaiah 51:9) is answered, his vision (Isaiah 52:7) is fulfilled. Jehovah has proclaimed Himself King, put on His royal robes, girded Himself like a warrior for action (Exodus 15:3; Psalm 65:6; Isaiah 59:17) with that strength which is His inalienable attribute (Exodus 15:13; Psalm 29:1; Psalm 68:34). For majesty cp. the use of the cognate verb in Exodus 15:1; Exodus 15:21 (“hath triumphed gloriously”); and Isaiah 12:5 (“excellent things”); Psalm 26:10.
“Jehovah has proclaimed Himself king” is the key-note of this group of Psalms of the Restoration (Psalm 96:10; Psalm 97:1; Psalm 99:1; cp. Psalm 103:19). Cp. also Psalm 47:7-8.
the world also is stablished &c.] Yea, the world shall be stablished that it be not shaken. This is the consequence of Jehovah’s once more assuming His sovereignty. The moral order of the world which seemed tottering to its fall is reestablished. Cp. Psalm 82:5. Here and in Psalm 96:10, where the words recur, some critics would follow the Ancient Versions in reading tiqqçn for tiqqôn; Yea, he has adjusted, or, ordered, the world. Cp. the use of the same word in Psalm 75:3. This reading appears in the P.B.V., “He hath made the round world so sure,” which follows the Vulg., etenim firmavit orbem terrae. But the advantage of the change is doubtful. See note on Psalm 93:2.
1, 2. Jehovah’s new proclamation of His eternal sovereignty.
Thy throne is established of old: thou art from everlasting.2. Though Jehovah has thus proclaimed His kingdom afresh, it is no novel thing. His sovereignty and His Being are eternal: they know neither beginning nor end (Psalm 90:2; Psalm 92:8). The contrast between Jehovah’s ever firmly established throne and the tottering order of the world which needs His intervention to reestablish it is in favour of the Massoretic text of Psalm 93:1.
The floods have lifted up, O LORD, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their waves.3. The floods] Lit. the rivers, rising up and threatening to inundate the land and sweep everything before them, are emblems of the great world-powers threatening to overspread the world. Thus Assyria is compared by Isaiah to the Euphrates, ‘the River’ par excellence (Isaiah 8:7-8); Egypt by Jeremiah to the Nile (Jeremiah 46:7-8). Similarly the sea with its mighty breakers thundering against the shore as though it would engulf the solid land is an emblem of the heathen world menacing the kingdom of God, but all in vain. For the sea as an emblem of hostile powers cp. Psalm 46:3; Psalm 89:9; Isaiah 17:12-13.
their waves] A word occurring here only, probably meaning collision, clash, din.
3, 4. The powers of earth menace Jehovah’s sovereignty in vain.
The LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.4. The A.V. obliterates the structure of the verse. If the received text is retained we may render,
Above the thundering of many waters,
The mighty (waters), the breakers of the sea,
Jehovah on high is mighty.
But the grammatical construction is anomalous, and an easy emendation gives the sense,
Above the thundering of many waters,
Majestic above the breakers of the sea,
Majestic on high is Jehovah.
The repetition is in harmony with the style of the Psalm. The word for noise, lit. voices, may best be rendered thundering, for the plural is only used of thunder. ’Addîr is inadequately rendered by mighty. It suggests the idea of grandeur and magnificence as well as power. Cp. Exodus 15:6; Exodus 15:11 (a cognate word); Psalm 8:1 (A.V. excellent); Isaiah 33:21.
Thy testimonies are very sure: holiness becometh thine house, O LORD, for ever.5. Thy testimonies] Many commentators explain testimonies to mean the promises and threatenings which have now been proved true, comparing the use of the cognate verb in Psalm 50:7; Psalm 81:8; Deuteronomy 8:19; &c. But this sense of the word is unsupported, and it is best to take it in its usual sense of the ‘law,’ regarded as bearing witness to Jehovah’s will and man’s duty. Cp. Psalm 19:7; Psalm 111:7. The transition seems somewhat abrupt; yet it is not inappropriate that the Psalm should close with a reference to the revelation which was the distinctive mark of Jehovah’s kingdom (Deuteronomy 4:7-8).
holiness &c.] God’s house may be either the Temple or the land. The Psalmist is confident that now the ideal will be realised. Jehovah has returned to dwell there, and it shall no more be defiled by Israel itself (Jeremiah 7:30), no more be desecrated by heathen invaders (Joel 3:17; Isaiah 52:1).
for ever] R.V. for evermore; lit. for length of days (Psalm 91:16).