Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
The note of despair in the last psalm is succeeded here by one of mingled expectancy and exultation. It is as if the pathetic question, “How long?” had suddenly and unexpectedly been answered by the appearance of a deliverer, sent, like one of the judges of old, exactly at the needful moment. East and west and south and north the eyes of Israel had been turned, and lo! in their midst is raised up one to save. No period in the history suits this attitude like the early days of the Asmonean successes, Mattathias and his sons are those whom God “setteth up.” The “horn” that is to be cut off is Antiochus Epiphanes, who in the Book of Daniel is described as “a little horn, which waxed exceeding great towards the south, and towards the east, and towards the pleasant land” (Daniel 8:9).
The psalm, whatever period produced it, is almost throughout inspired by the ancient song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2), but borrows its most prominent image, that of the cup of wrath, from the prophetic books. It is not, therefore, original, but, at the same time, is not wanting in lyric power, nor deficient in rhythm. It opens with a couplet of praise, and then, with an abruptness which gives a dramatic turn, introduces God pronouncing the restoration of right and order. At Psalm 75:6 the poet resumes in his own person, but concludes with another Divine utterance.
Title.—See titles Psalms 4, 57, 58
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) For that . . .—The wonders just wrought for Israel have repeated the old conviction that God’s name, a word of power to save (comp. Psalm 34:18; Psalm 145:18), is near. (Comp. Psalm 105:1.)
When I shall receive the congregation I will judge uprightly.(2) When I.—Rather, When I have chosen my time, I will judge uprightly. This sense: “my time” being shown by the emphatic “I” of the Hebrew. (Comp. Acts 17:31.) The word rendered in the Authorised Version “congregation” (moed), has plainly here its first derivative sense of a set time, or “occasion.” (Comp. Psalm 102:13; Habakkuk 2:3.) So LXX. and Vulg. here; but Symmachus gives “synagogue.”
It is quite clear that the speaker of these words is God Himself, who suddenly, as in Psalm 46:10, breaks in with the announcement of judgment. But how far the Divine utterance extends in the psalm is not quite clear. Some end it with Psalm 75:3; others with Psalm 75:5.
The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved: I bear up the pillars of it. Selah.(3) The earth . . .—Better—
“Are earth and all its inhabitants dissolved?
It was I adjusted its pillars.”
(See Hannah’s song, 1Samuel 2:8.) Though the crisis be such that all is confusion and anarchy (comp. Isaiah 24:19-20 for the figure), there is no cause for fear; there is still a Ruler in heaven, He who built up the edifice which now seems to totter to its fall. The verb rendered in the Authorised Version “bear up,” is used in Job 28:15, Isaiah 40:12 in the sense of “weighing” or “measuring;” but with the same allusion to the creative work of God. Here it plainly means, so to adjust the pillars as to make them equal to the weight they have to bear.
“Sunbeam proof, I hang like a roof,
The mountains its columns are.”
I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly: and to the wicked, Lift not up the horn:(4) Fools . . . foolishly.—Better, arrogant . . . arrogantly. See Psalm 73:3. (Comp. 1Samuel 2:3.)
Lift not up your horn on high: speak not with a stiff neck.(5) Lift not up your horn.—The “horn” is a symbol of honour (Psalm 112:9); of strength (Micah 4:13; Deuteronomy 33:17). The figure is taken from horned animals. (See 1Samuel 2:1; 1Samuel 2:10.)
With a stiff neck.—Better, with the neck proudly or wantonly raised.
For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south.(6) For promotion . . .—The Authorised Version has here rightly set aside the pointing of the text, which, as the LXX. and Vulg., reads—
“For not from the east, nor from the west,
Nor from the wilderness of mountains,”
a sentence which has no conclusion. The recurrence also of parts of the verb “to lift up” in Psalm 75:4-5; Psalm 75:7, makes in favour of taking harîm as part of the same verb here, instead of as a noun, “mountains.” That the word midbar (wilderness) might be used for “south,” receives support from Acts 8:26.
Ewald thinks the four points of the compass should be completed by inserting a conjunction, and taking the “desert” and “mountains” to represent respectively the south and north. He then supplies the conclusion of the sentence from the following verse:—
“For neither from east nor west,
Neither from desert nor mountains,
Cometh judgment; but God is Judge.”
This agrees with 1Samuel 2:10; but it is hardly needful to expect such scientific accuracy as to the points of the compass in Hebrew poetry.
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) A cup.—The figure of the cup of Divine fury is developed, as Psalm 11:6 compared with Psalm 16:5 shows, from the more general one which represents life itself as a draught which must be drunk, bitter or sweet, according to the portion assigned. It appears again in Psalm 60:3, and is worked out in prophetic books, Isaiah 51:17; Habakkuk 2:16, Ac.; Ezekiel 23:32-34, and frequently in Jeremiah. The mode of its introduction here, after the statement that God “putteth down one and setteth up another,” shows that the poet, in speaking of a “mixture,” thinks of the good and bad commingled in the cup, which are, of course, poured out to those whose portion is to be happiness and misery in Israel; while for the heathen, the “wicked of the earth” (possibly including apostate Jews), only the dregs are left to be drained. There are, however, many obscure expressions.
Is red.—Better, foameth, from the rapid pouring out.
Mixture.—Heb., mesekh; which, like mezeg, may properly denote aromatic wine (wine mixed with spices), but here seems rather to imply the blending of the portions destined for the good and bad in Israel.
Wring.—Better, drain. (See Psalm 73:10.)
The LXX. and Vulg. seem to have had a slightly different text before them, and one which still more distinctly points to the interpretation given above: “Because in the hand of the Lord a cup of unmixed wine, full of mixture, and he turned it from this side to that, but its dregs were not emptied, all the sinners of the earth shall drink of them.” The text has “poureth from this;” the word, “to that,” may have dropped out.
All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off; but the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.(10) Will I cut.—The Divine speaker again abruptly takes up the word in this verse. (For the abruptness, comp. Isaiah 48:15.) The “cutting off of the horns” recalls Zechariah 1:18 seq.; Lamentations 2:3.