Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
This Psalm consists of two parts, an invitation to worship, and a warning against disobedience.
i. The call to worship Jehovah because He is the Lord of all the world (Psalm 95:1-5) is followed by a reiterated call to worship Him because He is in an especial way the God of Israel (6, 7).
ii. The worshippers are solemnly warned not to repeat the sin of their ancestors in the wilderness (Psalm 95:8-11).
This is the first of a group of Psalms (95–100) strongly marked by common characteristics and obviously intended for liturgical use. The key-note of them has already been struck in Psalms 93, which forms a prelude to them, and should be studied in connexion with them. It seems highly probable that they were composed for the Dedication of the Second Temple in b.c. 516, and that the Septuagint titles of Psalms 96, When the house was being built after the Captivity, and Psalms 97, When his land was being settled, preserve a true tradition as to their date.
They are the lyrical echo of Isaiah 40-66, Psalms 98 in particular being full of resemblances to that collection of prophecies.
In the humiliation of Babylon and the restoration of Israel, Jehovah had proved Himself the sovereign of the world, supreme over all the gods of the heathen. He had vindicated His judicial righteousness and manifested His faithfulness to Israel. The joy of the deliverance culminated in the Dedication of the Temple. That event was the outward expression of the thought that He had once more seated Himself on His throne in Zion, not as the King of Israel only, but as the King of all the world.
But that event might well be an occasion not only for rejoicing but for warning. The deliverance from Babylon was the counterpart of the deliverance from Egypt. What if Israel of the Restoration should tempt Jehovah by faithlessness and disobedience as Israel in the wilderness had done? And therefore this Psalmist hears God’s voice tempering their exultation with salutary admonition. Such is the connexion of thought between the two parts of Psalms 95. The words of Psalm 95:7 a, b which recall the care of Jehovah for His people in the wilderness lead up most naturally to the hope that now at least Israel may be obedient (Psalm 95:7 c), and that hope is fitly followed by the solemn words of divine warning in Psalm 95:8-11.
Some critics hold that this Psalm, like Psalms 81, with which it has much in common, is a combination of two separate fragments; but in neither case is such a hypothesis necessary.
In appointing this Psalm, sometimes called the ‘Invitatory Psalm,’ for daily use as an introduction to the Psalms for the day, the English Church follows a primitive and general usage. “Before the beginning of their prayers,” writes Athanasius of the practice of the Church of Constantinople, “Christians invite and exhort one another in the words of this Psalm.” In the Western Church the whole Psalm appears to have been generally used. In the Eastern Church an invitatory founded on it is used at the commencement of service. See Daniel, On the Prayer Book, p. 88.
O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation.1. O come, let us sing aloud unto Jehovah:
Let us shout unto the Rock of our salvation.
Let us greet our God, Whose power has been manifested in the deliverance of His people, with the anthems and acclamations which befit a victorious King. Cp. Psalm 47:1; Psalm 66:1; Psalm 89:26, Psalm 94:22.
1, 2. A call to unite in worshipping Jehovah.
Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms.2. Let us present ourselves before his face with thanksgiving,
Let us shout unto him with psalms.
Let us present ourselves before Him in His Temple, bringing with us the sacrifice of thanksgiving. Cp. Micah 6:6; Psalm 50:14; Psalm 50:23.
For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods.3. The thoughts of the greatness of Jehovah, of His sovereignty, and of His supremacy over the gods of the heathen, are characteristic of this group of Psalms. They are not new thoughts (Exodus 15:11; Exodus 15:18), but fresh reality had been given to them by His revelation of Himself in the humiliation of Babylon and its gods, and the deliverance of Israel.
That the Psalmist attributes any real existence to the gods of the heathen is not to be supposed. They are mere idols, things of nought (Psalm 96:5), gods in name but not in reality. He cannot have gone back from the teaching of Jeremiah 10:3 ff., in which the living God, the Eternal King, the Creator, is contrasted with helpless perishable idols; or have forgotten the scathing sarcasms of Isaiah 40:18 ff; Isaiah 44:9 ff.
3–5. The reason for this service:—His greatness as the supreme King, the Lord of the world.
In his hand are the deep places of the earth: the strength of the hills is his also.4. In whose hand are the secret depths of earth,
And to whom the peaks of the mountains belong.
The depths of the earth which cannot be explored by man (Job 38:16; Jeremiah 31:37), the soaring mountain peaks upon which man cannot set his foot, are all under His control.
The meaning of the word for peaks is doubtful; but it probably means eminences (LXX, Jer.) rather than strength.
The sea is his, and he made it: and his hands formed the dry land.5. Whose is the sea, for HE made it;
And the dry land, which his hands formed.
Cp. Psalm 24:1; Psalm 89:11.
O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.6. Let us offer the lowliest homage expressive of humility and submission to His Will, in contrast to that obstinacy of heart (Psalm 95:8) which was the ruin of our fathers.
our Maker] It is the ‘making’ of Israel into a nation, rather than the creation of individuals, that is meant. Cp. Deuteronomy 32:6; Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 32:18; Isaiah 44:2; Isaiah 51:13; Isaiah 54:5; Psalm 100:3; Psalm 149:2.
6, 7. A renewed call to worship Jehovah, on the ground of His relation to Israel.
For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. To day if ye will hear his voice,7. our God] P. B.V. the Lord our God, from the Vulg.
the people &c.] The people whom He shepherds, the flock which is His own especial charge. Cp. Psalm 74:1, note.
To day if ye will hear &c.] The A.V. follows the LXX in taking this clause as the protasis to Psalm 95:8. But here the Psalmist is still speaking (‘his voice’), while in Psalm 95:8 God speaks; and it is better to take it as a wish, Oh that to-day ye would hearken to his voice! Cp. Deuteronomy 5:29. As the Psalmist recalls God’s care for His people in the wilderness, He cannot forget their thankless disobedience, and the earnest wish springs to his lips that this generation may not repeat the sin of their forefathers. This wish leads up naturally to the solemn warning of Psalm 95:8-11. To day is emphatic, and has a special significance if the Psalm was sung at the Dedication of the Second Temple: now, in contrast to that former time; now, when Jehovah has visibly manifested His goodness; now, while the door of opportunity lies open before you. His voice is not merely the words which follow, but all His message. Cp. Deuteronomy 4:30.
Harden not your heart, as in the provocation, and as in the day of temptation in the wilderness:8. Harden not your heart, as at Meribah,
As in the day of Massah in the wilderness (R.V.).
Meribah, Strife, and Massah, Temptation, were the names given to the scene of the murmuring at Rephidim at the beginning of the wandering (Exodus 17:1-7); and the scene of the murmuring at Kadesh in the fortieth year was also called Meribah (Numbers 20:1-13). The A.V. follows the LXX and other Ancient Versions in translating the words, but they should certainly be retained as proper names. Cp. Deuteronomy 33:8; Psalm 81:7.
8–11. Jehovah speaks, warning Israel not to repeat the sins of obstinacy and unbelief by which their ancestors provoked Him.
When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my work.9. The Israelites tempted and tried God by faithless doubts of His goodness and arbitrary demands that He should prove His power (Exodus 17:2; Exodus 17:7; Psalm 78:18; Psalm 78:41; Psalm 78:56).
and saw my work] While they on their part tempted God, He on His part was ever working out His providential plan, by mercy and by chastisement. But it suits the context better to render, Though they had seen my work. (For the construction cp. Nehemiah 6:1.) Though they had just had proof of God’s power and goodwill in the Exodus, it had not taught them to trust Him. Cp. Numbers 14:22.
Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:10. was I grieved] The Heb. is stronger; did I loathe (Ezekiel 6:9).
this generation] “This” is not in the Heb., which seems to mean, with a (whole) generation. But it is better to read with LXX and Jer., with that generation.
And I said, They are a people whose heart goeth astray,
And they know not my ways.
Wandering from the right way (Psalm 58:3; Isaiah 29:24; Isaiah 53:6); incapable of understanding the leadings of God’s Providence (Psalm 81:13).
Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.11. Unto whom &c.] Or, Wherefore I sware. See Numbers 14:21 ff.
my rest] The Promised Land. Cp. Deuteronomy 12:9.
Psalm 95:7 c–11 are quoted in Hebrews 3:7-11, and applied in detail as a warning to Christians who were in danger of unbelief, lest they too should fail to reach the rest promised to them. The quotation follows the LXX with some slight variations. In Hebrews 4:7, Psalm 95:7 c, Psalm 95:8 a are introduced by the words “saying in David,” i.e. ‘in the person of David,’ not ‘in the book of David.’ The author may have followed the LXX title, or, according to the common mode of speaking, regarded David as the author of the whole Psalter.