Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
Ps 68:1-35. This is a Psalm-song (see on Ps 30:1, title), perhaps suggested by David's victories, which secured his throne and gave rest to the nation. In general terms, the judgment of God on the wicked, and the equity and goodness of His government to the pious, are celebrated. The sentiment is illustrated by examples of God's dealings, cited from the Jewish history and related in highly poetical terms. Hence the writer intimates an expectation of equal and even greater triumphs and summons all nations to unite in praises of the God of Israel. The Psalm is evidently typical of the relation which God, in the person of His Son, sustains to the Church (compare Ps 68:18).
1-3. Compare Nu 10:35; Ps 1:4; 22:14, on the figures here used.
before him—as in Ps 68:2, from His presence, as dreaded; but in Ps 68:3, in His presence, as under His protection (Ps 61:7).
As smoke is driven away, so drive them away: as wax melteth before the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.
But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.
3. the righteous—all truly pious, whether of Israel or not.
Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.
4. extol him … heavens—literally, "cast up for Him who rideth in the deserts," or "wilderness" (compare Ps 68:7), alluding to the poetical representation of His leading His people in the wilderness as a conqueror, before whom a way is to be prepared, or "cast up" (compare Isa 40:3; 62:10).
by his name JAH—or, "Jehovah," of which it is a contraction (Ex 15:3; Isa 12:2) (Hebrew).
name—or, "perfections" (Ps 9:10; 20:1), which—
A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.
5, 6. are illustrated by the protection to the helpless, vindication of the innocent, and punishment of rebels, ascribed to Him.
God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
6. setteth the solitary in families—literally, "settleth the lonely" (as wanderers) "at home." Though a general truth, there is perhaps allusion to the wandering and settlement of the Israelites.
rebellious dwell in a dry land—removed from all the comforts of home.
O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah:
7, 8. (Compare Ex 19:16-18).
thou wentest—in the pillar of fire.
thou didst march—literally, "in Thy tread," Thy majestic movement.
The earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
8. even Sinai itself—literally, "that Sinai," as in Jud 5:5.
Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary.
9, 10. a plentiful rain—a rain of gifts, as manna and quails.
Thy congregation hath dwelt therein: thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor.
10. Thy congregation—literally, "troop," as in 2Sa 23:11, 13—the military aspect of the people being prominent, according to the figures of the context.
therein—that is, in the land of promise.
the poor—Thy humble people (Ps 68:9; compare Ps 10:17; 12:5).
The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.
11. gave the word—that is, of triumph.
company—or, choir of females, celebrating victory (Ex 15:20).
Kings of armies did flee apace: and she that tarried at home divided the spoil.
12. Kings of armies—that is, with their armies.
she that … at home—Mostly women so remained, and the ease of victory appears in that such, without danger, quietly enjoyed the spoils.
Though ye have lien among the pots, yet shall ye be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.
13. Some translate this, "When ye shall lie between the borders, ye shall," &c., comparing the peaceful rest in the borders or limits of the promised land to the proverbial beauty of a gentle dove. Others understand by the word rendered "pots," the smoked sides of caves, in which the Israelites took refuge from enemies in the times of the judges; or, taking the whole figuratively, the rows of stones on which cooking vessels were hung; and thus that a contrast is drawn between their former low and afflicted state and their succeeding prosperity. In either case, a state of quiet and peace is described by a beautiful figure.
When the Almighty scattered kings in it, it was white as snow in Salmon.
14. Their enemies dispersed, the contrast of their prosperity with their former distress is represented by that of the snow with the dark and somber shades of Salmon.
The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan; an high hill as the hill of Bashan.
15, 16. Mountains are often symbols of nations (Ps 46:2; 65:6). That of Bashan, northeast of Palestine, denotes a heathen nation, which is described as a "hill of God," or a great hill. Such are represented as envious of the hill (Zion) on which God resides;
Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the LORD will dwell in it for ever.
The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.
17. and, to the assertion of God's purpose to make it His dwelling, is added evidence of His protecting care. He is described as in the midst of His heavenly armies—
thousands of angels—literally, "thousands of repetitions," or, "thousands of thousands"—that is, of chariots. The word "angels" was perhaps introduced in our version, from De 33:2, and Ga 3:19. They are, of course, implied as conductors of the chariots.
as … Sinai, in the holy place—that is, He has appeared in Zion as once in Sinai.
Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.
18. From the scene of conquest He ascends to His throne, leading—
captivity captive—or, "many captives captive" (Jud 5:12).
received gifts for men—accepting their homage, even when forced, as that of rebels.
that the Lord God might dwell—or literally, "to dwell, O Lord God" (compare Ps 68:16)—that is, to make this hill, His people or Church, His dwelling. This Psalm typifies the conquests of the Church under her divine leader, Christ. He, indeed, "who was with the Church in the wilderness" (Ac 7:38) is the Lord, described in this ideal ascension. Hence Paul (Eph 4:8) applies this language to describe His real ascension, when, having conquered sin, death, and hell, the Lord of glory triumphantly entered heaven, attended by throngs of adoring angels, to sit on the throne and wield the scepter of an eternal dominion. The phrase "received gifts for (or literally, among) men" is by Paul, "gave gifts to men." Both describe the acts of a conqueror, who receives and distributes spoils. The Psalmist uses "receiving" as evincing the success, Paul "gave" as the act, of the conqueror, who, having subdued his enemies, proceeds to reward his friends. The special application of the passage by Paul was in proof of Christ's exaltation. What the Old Testament represents of His descending and ascending corresponds with His history. He who descended is the same who has ascended. As then ascension was an element of His triumph, so is it now; and He, who, in His humiliation, must be recognized as our vicarious sacrifice and the High Priest of our profession, must also be adored as Head of His Church and author of all her spiritual benefits.
Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.
19-21. God daily and fully supplies us. The issues or escapes from death are under His control, who is the God that saves us, and destroys His and our enemies.
He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death.
But God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses.
21. wound the head—or, "violently destroy" (Nu 24:8; Ps 110:6).
goeth on still in … trespasses—perseveringly impenitent.
The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea:
22. Former examples of God's deliverance are generalized: as He has done, so He will do.
from Bashan—the farthest region; and—
depths of the sea—the severest afflictions. Out of all, God will bring them. The figures of Ps 68:23 denote the completeness of the conquest, not implying any savage cruelty (compare 2Ki 9:36; Isa 63:1-6; Jer 15:3).
That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same.
They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary.
24-27. The triumphal procession, after the deliverance, is depicted.
They have seen—impersonally, "There have been seen."
the goings of my God—as leading the procession; the ark, the symbol of His presence, being in front. The various bands of music (Ps 68:25) follow, and all who are—
The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; among them were the damsels playing with timbrels.
Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel.
26. from—or literally, "of"
the fountain of Israel—that is, lineal descendants of Jacob, are invited to unite in the doxology. Then by one of the nearest tribes, one of the most eminent, and two of the most remote, are represented the whole nation of Israel, passing forward (Nu 7:1-89).
There is little Benjamin with their ruler, the princes of Judah and their council, the princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali.
Thy God hath commanded thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us.
28, 29. Thanks for the past, and confident prayer for the future victories of Zion are mingled in a song of praise.
Because of thy temple at Jerusalem shall kings bring presents unto thee.
29. thy temple—literally, "over"
Jerusalem—His palace or residence (Ps 5:7) symbolized His protecting presence among His people, and hence is the object of homage on the part of others.
Rebuke the company of spearmen, the multitude of the bulls, with the calves of the people, till every one submit himself with pieces of silver: scatter thou the people that delight in war.
30. The strongest nations are represented by the strongest beasts (compare Margin).
Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.
31. Princes—or, literally, "fat ones," the most eminent from the most wealthy, and the most distant nation, represent the universal subjection.
stretch out her hands—or, "make to run her hands," denoting haste.
Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord; Selah:
32-36. To Him who is presented as riding in triumph through His ancient heavens and proclaiming His presence—to Him who, in nature, and still more in the wonders of His spiritual government, out of His holy place (Ps 43:3), is terrible, who rules His Church, and, by His Church, rules the world in righteousness—let all nations and kingdoms give honor and power and dominion evermore.
To him that rideth upon the heavens of heavens, which were of old; lo, he doth send out his voice, and that a mighty voice.
Ascribe ye strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in the clouds.
O God, thou art terrible out of thy holy places: the God of Israel is he that giveth strength and power unto his people. Blessed be God.