Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
In this psalm we seem to have the Sabbath musings (see Note to Title) of one who had met the doubt born of the sight of successful wickedness, and struggled through it to a firm faith in “the Rock in whom is no unrighteousness,” though sometimes on earth iniquity seems to flourish and prevail. It is difficult to determine whether the psalm simply expresses the religious feelings of Israel generally after the restoration, or whether it owes its origin to any special event. In 1 Maccabees 9:23 there is an evident echo of, or quotation from, the Greek version of Psalm 92:7. The versification is regular.
Title.—A psalm or song; more properly, a lyric psalm, i.e., one specially intended for singing.
For the sabbath day.—The Talmud confirms this, saying that this psalm was sung on the morning of the Sabbath at the drink offering which followed the sacrifice of the first lamb (Numbers 28:9).
A Psalm or Song for the sabbath day. It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High:
To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night,(2) Lovingkindness . . . faithfulness.—The two most prominent features in the display of the covenant relation of God towards His people. The connection of lovingkindness or grace with the morning, and faithfulness or truth with the evening, is only a result of the Hebrew poetic style; and yet there is a fitness in the association. Love breaks through the clouds of doubt as the morning light rises on the night; and thoughts of God’s unerring and impartial justice best suit the evening—the trial time of the day.
Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound.(3) Ten strings.—See Note, Psalm 33:2.
Upon the harp with a solemn sound.—Rather, with music of the harp. For the Hebrew word, see Note, Psalm 9:16.
For thou, LORD, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands.(4) The Vulgate rendering of this verse is quoted by Dante in a beautiful passage descriptive of the happiness which flows from delight in the beauty of the works of God in nature. But the reference is to the works in history, not in nature. The psalmist is really expressing his gladness at God’s wonders wrought for Israel. (Comp. Psalm 90:15-16,” Make us glad . . . let thy work appear unto thy servants.)
O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.(5) Thoughts.—Better, plans, or purposes. (Comp. in addition to references in margin, Psalm 36:6.)
A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.(6) A brutish man.—The Hebrew is apparently from a root meaning “to eat,” and so refers to the man of mere animal nature, who lives for his appetites.
Fool.—From root meaning “fat,” hence “gross,” “stupid.”
In the one case the moral sense has not come into play at all, in the other it is overgrown by sensuality, so that spiritual discernment, insight into the glories of the Divine mind, is impossible.
When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever:(7) This verse apparently introduces the statement of the truth which the sensualist does not understand, viz., that the prosperity of the wicked is only momentary, and will render their destruction all the more impressive. The Authorised Version is incorrect in introducing the second conjunction “when.” Literally, In the springing of the wicked like grass, flourish all the workers of iniquity to be destroyed for ever, i.e., the prosperity of an evil class or community gives an impulse to evil, and apparently for a time iniquity seems to have the upper hand, but it is only that the inevitable destruction may be more signal. For the emblematic use of vegetable life in the psalter see Note, Psalm 1:3-4.
But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.(10) Unicorn.—Better, buffalo. (See Numbers 23:22; Psalm 22:21.)
Mine eye also shall see my desire on mine enemies, and mine ears shall hear my desire of the wicked that rise up against me.(11) Mine eye also.—Better, And my eye looked upon (was able to look without fear) my insidious foes, and for their rising against me as villains my ears listened (without alarm).
The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.(12) Palm tree.—This is the only place where the palm appears as an emblem of moral rectitude and beauty of character, yet its aptness for such comparison has often been noticed. (See Tristram’s Natural History of the Bible, p. 384; and comp. Thomson’s The Land and the Book, p. 49.)
A moral use was more often made of the cedar. Emblem of kingly might, it also became the type of the imperial grandeur of virtuous souls. (See Bible Educator, iii. 379.)
The contrast of the palm’s perennial verdure, and the cedar’s venerable age, an age measured not by years, but by centuries, with the fleeting moments of the brief day of the grass, to which the wicked are compared (Psalm 92:7), is very striking, as striking as that in Psalms 1 between the empty husk and the flourishing fruit-tree.
Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.(13) (See Note, Psalm 52:8, and Stanley’s Jewish Church, ii. 207.)
They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;(14) They shall still bring forth.—Literally, Still shall they sprout in hoary age, sappy and green shall they be, alluding to the great fruitfulness of the date palm, and to the fact that to the very last this fruitfulness continues.