Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
To the chief Musician, Al-taschith, A Psalm or Song of Asaph
2 Unto thee, O God, do we give thanks, unto thee do we give thanks:
For that thy name is near
Thy wondrous works declare.
3 When I shall receive the congregation
I will judge uprightly.
4 The earth and all the inhabitants thereof are dissolved:
I bear up the pillars of it. Selah:
5 I said unto the fools, Deal not foolishly:
And to the wicked, Lift not up the horn:
6 Lift not up your horn on high:
Speak not with a stiff neck.
7 For promotion cometh neither from the east, nor from the west,
Nor from the south.
8 But God is the judge:
He putteth down one, and setteth up another.
9 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.
10 But I will declare for ever;
I will sing praises to the God of Jacob.
11 All the horns of the wicked also will I cut off;
But the horns of the righteous shall be exalted.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
CONTENTS AND COMPOSITION. In the superscription, compare Introd. § 12, No. 15; § 8, Nos. 1 and 2. The whole Psalm is pervaded by the confident assurance of help against arrogant and impious enemies through God’s judicial intervention. This assurance, however, flows from reliance on a promise of God received just before, and is so strong and lively that the Psalm begins already with the thanks of the Church (Psalm 75:2), and not till then is God’s declaration announced (Psalm 75:3–5), after which (Psalm 75:6) the warning to the enemies is repeated. This is based upon the two truths realized by faith, that Israel’s deliverance does not proceed from those who were situated round about them on earth, but from God as Judge (Psalm 75:7, 8), and that God as Jehovah compels all the wicked of the earth to be the instruments of their own righteous punishment (Psalm 75:9). The Psalmist finally declares, with the joyfulness of faith, that his praise shall never cease, and that the triumphant power of the righteous shall ever increase (Psalm 75:10, 11).
No convincing arguments can be adduced to justify us in connecting this and the following Psalm with the victory of the Maccabean princes over the Syrian Gorgias, 1 Macc. 4 (Rudinger) or with that of the Maccabean general Judas over the Syrian Apollonius, 1 Macc. 3:10 f. (Hitzig, who refers Ps. 76 to the defeat of Seron). There is no reason even for going down to the age of the Exile, (Hupfeld) or to the times after the Exile generally (Köster, Olshausen). On the other hand there is nothing to contradict the supposition announced already in the superscription of the following Psalm in the Septuagint, which connects it with the Assyrians, that is with the overthrow of Sennacherib before Jerusalem (2 Kings 19). Many arguments may even be adduced in support of it, namely, not only the points of resemblance with Pss. 46 and 76 but especially Psalm 75:7, and the prophetic declaration of Isaiah 37 along with the exhortation corresponding thereto, addressed to king Hezekiah, 2 Chron. 32:7, 8. “Our Psalm is accordingly to be viewed as the lyrical accompaniment of the prophetic utterances which Isaiah gave forth in view of impending destruction by the Assyrians, as an evidence also of the lively faith with which God’s people then received His promise, and as an exhortation to the Church of all ages, through like faith, to seek a share in a like deliverance.” (Hengstenberg).
Psalm 75:2. And Thy name is near.—[E. V.: For that thy name is near.] Since it is not permitted to translate וְby “for” (De Wette), the verse does not formally present the ground of thanksgiving, though it is really contained in the nearness of God’s revealed presence and in the might of His name (Deut. 4:7; Is. 30:27), by which His salvation comes nigh (Ps. 85:10). The subject is continued and has a deeper meaning than when it is said that God is near the heart and the mouth, (Jer. 12:12, comp. Deut. 30:14). The view of the passage, according to which a colon is put after “and,” and the nearness of God’s name is regarded as that which His wondrous works declare (Hupfeld) personifies the latter in a manner hardly admissible. [The former construction would necessitate the rendering: We praise thee, O Lord, we give praise; and thy name is near; they recount thy wonders. In favor of this view I would urge further that “recounting God’s wonders, etc.” was the most usual kind of praise or thanksgiving, as the aspect in which God was viewed by the Israelites was largely that of a Wonder-Worker. The connection with the first member of the verse, then appears natural. The change of person is usual, and as the verb has the masculine termination, the necessity of assuming a neglect of agreement is avoided.—J. F. M.]
Psalm 75:3–6. Occasion.—[Heb.מועֵד. E.V.: Congregation]. In Hab. 2:3; Dan. 8:19, 11:27, 35; Ps. 102:14, the time appointed in God’s counsel for the execution of His judgment, is expressed by this term מועֵד, that is, καιρός. This shall arrive when God shall have finished His work in the Church (Is. 10:12). And God gives the assurance that He will not allow this occasion to pass by disregarded, but that He will seize upon it, and then judge according to the law of right. Accordingly it is not the earthly king David who speaks (Geier and others) but the heavenly King, as in Ps. 46:11. The only question is now, how far this declaration continues; whether to Psalm 75:7 inclusive (Hitzig) or to Psalm 75:6 (Tholuck, Delitzsch) or to Psalm 75:5 (Köster) or only to Psalm 75:4 (Kimchi and most). In any case the different parts of such propheticolyrical utterances flow easily into one another, and in Psalm 75:10, though the Church does not speak (Hengst.) yet it is in her name and as her exponent that the Psalmist does, since the Psalm begins with we, and therefore the use of the first person decides nothing. The musical mark Selah throws no more light upon the question. Announcements from God are given by Isaiah, in which threatenings against His enemies occur, and which bear also the character of warning and exhortation, but such utterances concerning the Assyrians in the mouth of the Psalmist are admitted by none. Besides, the sudden change of the speaker introducing himself with “I,” would not be without harshness. We are therefore at all events justified in including Psalm 75:5 as part of God’s declaration. With regard to Psalm 75:6 we have more ground for hesitation. For if we were to consider it as a continuation of the words uttered by God, it would appear to derogate from the conciseness, pregnancy, and force which are conspicuous in them, and render it difficult to assign the true position of Psalm 75:7. If, on the other hand, we regard Psalm 75:6 as a lyrical response to God’s declaration, in the mouth of the Psalmist, prophecy and poetry would run naturally into one another, and Psalm 75:7 be united in conformity to this by the causal כִּיּ. Even in Psalm 75:3 this particle is capable of the same meaning. It would in that case introduce the transition from the lyrical to the prophetical style. But a translation, which, beginning with “for,” must insert a colon immediately after it for the sake of clearness (Delitzsch), is harsh. It is however unnecessary to change the confirmatory into an affirmative: yea (Baur in De Wette). The construction of כִּי as a particle of time=ὅτ́αν (Sept.) is quite correct and expressive; the ambiguous wenn (De Wette and others) is, however, to be avoided. The words scarcely mean that God will “choose” the proper occasion (Ewald, Maurer, Olshausen), but that He will “seize upon” an occasion already chosen, Gen. 2:15; Ps. 18:17 (Kimchi, Calvin, and others, Hupfeld, Delitzsch). In Psalm 75:4 it is doubtful whether the dissolving is to be understood of internal melting from fear, while quaking before God as He appears for judgment (Olshausen, Hupfeld) or before the violence of the wicked (Hitzig) or whether it is to be understood of the disturbing influence of the prevailing violence, unrighteousness and sin in the disarrangement of moral forces, symbolized by physical ones, in political confusion and the like events, comp. Ps. 46:7 (Geier, Hengst., Del.) In like manner it is doubtful whether the setting upright of the pillars is to be taken in a preterite sense, and referring to God’s original creative acts, from which an assurance of God’s preserving and delivering may be drawn (1 Sam. 2:8; Job 38:4 ff.) or whether it is to be taken in a present sense with direct reference to the latter. The different allusions merge into one another, and so, to a certain extent, do the expositions of the same.—The horn, employed already in Deut. 33:17; 1 Sam. 2:1, as an instrument of victorious aggression, and in Ps. 18:3, transferred to Jehovah as the Horn of salvation, is applied in the present Psalm in Psalm 75:11b to the righteous. In Psalm 75:11a, on the contrary, and in Psalm 75:5 and 6, it is applied to the impious enemy. It occurs in such a connection that it is plain “horn,” does not mean head (Hupfeld) but denotes an instrument of force. And to lift up the horn is not to raise the head, but, according to the context, to display the instruments of force, to brandish them for attack or defense, to increase, or to strengthen them. It is also to be decided by the context alone, whether the accessory idea of confidence and courage, or that of insolence and presumption is to be understood (comp. Ps. 89:18, 25; 92:11; 112:9; 148:14; 1 Macc. 2:48). The meaning “bear up” given to תכנתי in Psalm 75:4 in E. V., is probably not exactly correct. So with the explanation “estimate” taken from the same sense of weighing. The idea of setting upright is most readily suggested by the context, and is really as near the primary meaning of making level, even,ְ as the other renderings.—J. F. M.].
Psalm 75:7. From the desert of the mountains.—[Heb. מִמִּדְבַּר הָרִים. Eng. Ver., Promotion … from the south]. This translation is demanded by the present text, and refers to the Arabian desert, bounded by mountains, which lies to the south of Canaan. The sentence which, from the course of thought, is easily completed, means that the foes who oppress God’s people have to expect the Judge neither from the East, nor the West, nor the South, but from heaven. This appears to intimate that the enemy is viewed as approaching from the North, and therefore applies to the Assyrians. A number of good MSS. and editions, and even the Targum, read midhbar, however not with Pattahh, but with Kamets. The question then is, how, according to this word, thus standing in the absolute state, the following הָרִים is to be understood. Most of those who adopt this reading (Hupfeld also) take it with Kimchi as Hiphil Inf., with the substantive meaning: elevation. It then is understood to mean that exaltation comes from no quarter of the world, that there is no earthly source of power. But even if without any addition the desert can be used to designate the south, it would justly be felt necessary for the full expression of the thought thus presented, that the north should be mentioned. It has been attempted to gain this end, by allowing harim to retain its usual meaning, while the mountains are understood to mean the fertile mountain region of Lebanon and Hermon (Ewald). But this fails in this respect that the repetition of the preposition can scarcely be dispensed with if the thought “from the mountains” is to be brought out, and the word not be capable of being considered as in apposition; and this is especially necessary if the need of completing the unfinished sentence is taken into account. The words are more suitable in the mouth of God (Hitzig), or of the enemy (Geier, Rosenmüller), than in that of the Psalmist.
Psalm 75:9–11. A cup is the cup of wrath (Is. 51:17.) with the intoxicating wine (Ps.60:5) which God Himself by mixing it prepares for drinking. He reaches it forth Himself while fermenting, that is, foaming, and full to the brim, and forces the guilty to drain it without intermission and with constrained eagerness, even to the dregs (Job 21:20; Obad. 16; Hab. 2:16; Ezek. 23:34; Jer. 25:15 f; 48:26; 49:12; 51:7). It is not necessary to change אַךְ Psalm 75:9d into אַף (Olshausen, Baur) for the sake of the thought: even its dregs, instead of: only its dregs (Hengst., Hitzig). The latter rendering is, it is true, the prevailing one, and the sense might be that the heathen who hitherto had not drunk of this cup, receive nothing but the dregs to drain (Hitzig). But this is less suitable in the connection than the thought: there is nothing left, etc. And the particle אַךְ leads us directly to this, for it expresses not so much limitation as contrast, and therefore gives sometimes to an expression the sense of certainty and indubitableness (Ewald, § 105 d, § 354 a). Its dregs are not those of the cup, but of the mixture. This reference is favored by the feminine suffix. כּוֹם, indeed, occurs sometimes as feminine, but usually as masculine, and so here. Since מֶסֶךְ is in the accusative, יַיִן is likewise so to be taken, and the rather that the article is absent. Then it is not red, that is, good wine, that is spoken of (Kimchi, Calvin, J. D. Michaelis, Rosenmueller), nor is it wine, conceived as still fermenting, and therefore turbid (Aben Ezra and others), nor that in which roots have been put, and which has begun to ferment again (De Wette), but it is a cup foaming from a full drawing (Gesenius, Thesaurus). The concluding words, in Psalm 75:11, are taken by most as the words of God, and in form and meaning correspond to this view. The change of speakers would, however, be harsh, and there is no sufficient reason for placing the verse immediately after Psalm 75:4 (Olshausen). The word “all,” in Psalm 75:9 and 10 has at all events a strong emphasis.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. It is good for us not only to listen to the voice of men, but also to give ear to God when He speaks. All His words, however, cluster round the Law and the Gospel, and have as their central point His revelation of Himself for man’s salvation, or the bringing near of His name.2 The Law shows us chiefly God as Judge; the Gospel God as Saviour. The two aspects, however, are presented in both. It is our part to divide rightly the word of God, and sincerely appropriate it.
2. If we can appropriate in faith God’s gracious word of promise, we will gain that joyful assurance of help and salvation, which cheers us in suffering, makes us courageous in dangers and valiant in temptations, and, through the assurance of Divine intervention, begets that certainty of final victory, before which complaining is stilled, and for which prayer, thanksgiving, and praise resound.
3. The promises which God has given to His covenant people, every believer may appropriate to himself. This is not accomplished, however, with equal success at all times. Through various causes it is sometimes easy, and at other times difficult. It becomes difficult especially through the pressure which in circumstances of extreme distress the thought of God’s tarrying exerts upon the soul. If we were to yield to this pressure, the fear of neglect and the anguish of abandonment by God would take possession of the soul. It is therefore well that, to counteract it, we recount betimes the former wonders and mighty acts of God, and then we will be taught to rely with greater confidence upon the trustworthiness of God, that is, upon His truth and faithfulness, and to be more assured of His power, righteousness, and goodness.
4. God not only knows the right occasion, but avails Himself of it, and His intervention preserves from destruction the world shaken to its foundations, while He maintains, as He has established, in force, efficiency, and due influence, the moral as well as the physical order of the world. Therefore judgment and deliverance are to be expected from Him alone, and not from the world. The attention therefore, both of the Church and of the world, must be earnestly given to serious reflection upon the justice as well as upon the love of God. For God is equally in earnest in both, and none can hinder their complete manifestation at the fit time.
5. When one is abased and another exalted, it is not to be regarded as the sport of fortune, nor as an event of blind necessity, whether it be called nature or destiny, but the controlling hand of God is to be discerned therein, which, according to men’s conduct, punishes and blesses, deals out and presents to every one the portion allotted to him. By this men themselves are made to further the execution of the Divine judgments. Yet even so there is an essential difference not to be overlooked. The wicked perform their part by constraint; the righteous willingly. Hence arises the distinction between the instruments and the servants of God.
6. The wicked do not at first perceive that they themselves must bear a part in the execution of judgment upon themselves, and when they do perceive it while exchanging the sweet and intoxicating cup for the bitter dregs, they cannot prevent it. They must drain it without intermission, even to its sediments, and that they all must do without exception. The final ruin of all the ungodly as well as the complete triumph of the righteous and their endless praise to God is a Messianic expectation, theme of announcement, and hope.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The distresses of the pious do not prove that they are forsaken by God, but that the time chosen by Him beforehand has not yet arrived.—When the righteous praise God they make known, 1, that God’s name has come nigh them; 2, that they have to talk of His wonders; 3, that they are mindful of His word.—God’s word and man’s faith bear constantly an intimate relation to each other, therefore the word must be proclaimed, and faith tried.—There are commotions in which the world might be crushed and the Church might despair, if God did not preserve the one and comfort the other.—God is indeed omnipresent, preserving and governing the world which He has created, but there are times and places in its history in which the presiding hand of the Eternal is clearly displayed, or is veiled from human sight.—When distress is the most severe, then is help nearest, but it lies not in us to determine this extremity of need.—Before God judges He attempts to save. He therefore not merely threatens to punish, but warns also the presumptuous and secure.—The announcement of God’s coming has the power to cheer or to terrify, just according to men’s conduct.—It is better to take the cup of sorrow from God’s hand than to be obliged to drink the intoxicating cup of His wrath which follows the cup of sin and its pleasures.—Not from the powers of the world, but from God in heaven are judgment and deliverance to be expected—God’s judgments come irresistibly, but they may be escaped by a genuine repentance.—God’s judgments upon the unconverted sinner are inevitable; let no one deceive himself: what is delayed is not revoked.—Through God’s delaying nothing is lost; but many may be saved thereby, for space is given them for repentance.—Which do you prefer, endless praise or endless groaning? One of the two is thy allotted portion, and God’s hand cannot err.—The triumph of the righteous is as certain as the ruin of the wicked, and both of them through God’s judgment, but many find it hard to bide the time.
LUTHER: God measures out to every one his draught of suffering; but it is the dregs that are left for the ungodly.—STARKE: The heart of a believer so overflows with gratitude in the contemplation of God’s blessings, that it cannot find words sufficient to express it.—The troubles of the righteous last long, as it seems to us, yet they have a certain limit appointed by God, which they cannot pass.—When God touches a land everything trembles and melts like wax at the fire.—O that men would fall betimes in true penitence at the feet of this Judge!—Presumption is the mother of all sins and the road to destruction, and self-security is the strongest chain of hell, Isa. 28:15; Prov. 16:18.—The troubles of the Christian are like the foam of a liquid, which lasts but a short time, but the plagues of the ungodly are like the dregs, which will cause them endless torment.—Here the wonderful ways of God are often concealed to us; but there we shall discover that they have been only goodness and truth; what then can they evoke from us but unceasing praise to God?—The fall of one must often be the means of the exaltation of another.—SYNESIUS (Bp. of Cyrene): There is a life-giving pleasure worthy of being the gift of God, and there is a tumultuous rejoicing. When thou art enjoying the bounteous repast, think of God! For then comes the greatest enticement to sin, and most slip and fall.—OSIANDER: The judgments of God against persecutors we are to await with patience.—SELNECKER: The world could not last a moment, if God had not preserve it for the sake of His chosen.—RENSCHEL: God’s word is the Christian’s strength, by which he acts in faith as with the strength of God.—FRISCH: Security is the strongest chain of hell, the largest net of Satan, by which he hunts best and catches the most prey.—ARNDT: The hope of relief is given to tribulation, and, for all that we know, God may have many means of deliverance.—RIEGER: It is a great work to strengthen the hands of ourselves and others for good in evil times as Asaph does in this Psalm, so that we testify (1) to the source of our good hope; (2) to our good aims flowing from this source; (3) how we have realized these and maintained at the same time our good hope.—THOLUCK: God alone is to be Judge and Hiding-place.—RICHTER (Hausbibel): The Revelation of John is the key to and conclusion of all the prophecies of the Old Testament concerning this “last time,” and they have been given as a warning and consolation, not for carnal abuse.—VAIHINGER: The judgment of God cannot follow at all times, but man’s freedom must have room for exercise, in some cases as hardening into sin, and in others as growing preparedness for Divine help, in order that the actual final decision of God may be emphatic and convincing.—GUENTHER: The higher a man holds himself, the further is he from God.—SCHAUBACH (20th Sunday after Trinity): As the Church of the Lord made herself ready to receive Him, so must thou too, O Christian, worthily prepare thyself. For in His own time will He, who now so kindly and lovingly invites thee, become thy Judge, and all the world shall tremble before Him.—TAUBE: We perhaps call often upon God in the hour of anguish and distress, but there scarcely ever goes forth simple, much less frequent, thanksgiving after deliverance.—God is Judge! That is the great fact which underlies the history of the world, which pervades in a thousand manifestations all the ways and works of God.—KÖGEL (Thanksgiving service after the battle of Königgratz) 1. We remind each other of the sustaining pillars; 2. We feel all of us together the trembling of the land, 3. We adore the supporting hand of God.
[MATTH. HENRY (Psalm 75:6–10): Two good practical inferences drawn from these great truths: 1. He will praise God and give Him glory for the elevation to which He had advanced him. 2. He will use the power with which he is entrusted for the great ends for which it was put into his hands, (1) He resolves to be a terror unto evil-doers; (2) He resolves to be a protection and praise to them that do well.—J. F. M.]
[“According to the biblical, and especially the Old Testament mode of conception the connection generally between the name and the object is very close, differing greatly from that held in the modern consciousness, in which the name has been weakened by a mere conventional sign. The name is the thing itself, in so far as the latter is manifested and known—the expression of the nature of the object comprehended in the word.” König, Theologie der Psalmen, p. 266; quoted in the original in Liddon’s Bampton Lectures, p. 50.—J. F. M.]
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.