Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
A Psalm or Song for the Sabbath day
2 It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD,
And to sing praises unto thy name, O Most High:
3 To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning,
And thy faithfulness every night,
4 Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery;
Upon the harp with a solemn sound.
5 For thou, LORD, hast made me glad through thy work:
I will triumph in the works of thy hands.
6 O LORD, how great are thy works!
And thy thoughts are very deep.
7 A brutish man knoweth not;
Neither doth a fool understand this.
8 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:
9 But thou, LORD, art most high for evermore.
10 For, lo, thine enemies, O LORD, for, lo, thine enemies shall perish;
All the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.
11 But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of a unicorn:
I shall be anointed with fresh oil.
12 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.
13 The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree:
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
14 Those that be planted in the house of the LORD
Shall nourish in the courts of our God.
15 They shall still bring forth fruit in old age;
They shall be fat and flourishing;
16 To shew that the LORD is upright:
He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
CONTENTS AND COMPOSITION.—The mode of expression in Psalm 92:5, 11, 12 pint to definite occasions for the praise of God’s righteous government, which had been misunderstood by stupid and foolish men, by reason of the depth of the Divine counsels, and on account of the temporary flourishing of the wicked. Yet nothing can be concluded from 1 Maccab. 7:17, and 9:23 to show that the Psalm was sung at the feast of dedication under Judas Maccabæus as a song of thanksgiving for the victory over the Syrians (Venema), or to connect it with the judgment of God upon Antiochus and Lysias, 1 Maccab. 7 (Hitzig). A relation to the Sabbath, on the other hand, is readily suggested by the whole tenor of the Psalm, and by many distinct expressions. Among these there may be specially mentioned the seven-fold repetition of the name Jehovah, the intentional form of the middle strophe consisting of seven stichs, the musical accompaniment of the song of praise, and the manifold references of the Psalm to the works of God, and to the prosperity of His people, who are planted in His house. Its original designation to a sabbatical use, however, can neither be deduced from its contents nor proved from the superscription. But its application to such purposes in the temple-service after the exile, has been made known to us by the Talmudists, who are only divided in opinion, as to whether the celebration of the Sabbath which shall end the world’s history was the one really in view, or that of the Sabbath which has begun it. In the latter connection rabbinical absurdity has been carried so far as to refer the Psalm to Adam (Kimchi).—The division of the Psalm is as follows: The demand for the praise of God (Psalm 92:2–4), is supported by allusions to the government and works of God, whose greatness and depth of wisdom are equally beyond the comprehension of all men (Psalm 92:5–7). This demand is not weakened by the thought of the prosperity of the wicked, which is only transient (Psalm 92:8–10), but is much rather justified by the exaltation of the righteous from a depressed condition to greater glory and power (Psalm 92:11, 12), as they grow up vigorously, like blooming trees of God’s planting, from the soil in which they stand as faithful worshippers of God in His house, and bring forth praise to Jehovah, as the ripened fruit of their flourishing growth (Psalm 92:13–16).
[As regards the primary object of the composition of the Psalm. Dr. Alexander agrees with Hengstenberg in holding that it was for the Sabbath service—that therefore there is no reason to doubt the originality of the superscription. Perowne is of the same opinion as Dr. Moll, thinking that the superscription is not a safe guide. As to the subject of the Psalm, Perowne says: “It celebrates in joyful strain the greatness of God’s works, especially His righteous government of the world, as manifested in the overthrow of the wicked and the final triumph of the righteous.—The Psalmist, therefore, touches upon the same great principles of the Divine government which are laid down in such Psalms as 1, 37, 49, and 73. But here there is no struggle with doubt and perplexity as in Ps. 73. The poet is beyond all doubt, above all perplexity. He has not fallen down to the level of the brutish man, (comp. 73:22 with 92:6); he is rejoicing in the full and perfect conviction of the righteousness of God.”—J. F. M.]
Psalm 92:3, 4. [In verse 3 there is no occasion for rendering “every night” as E. V. has done. It is the simple plural of the noun that occurs in the Hebrew. “In the nights” is a poetical use of the plural. It is parallel with: “in the morning,” in the first member, and therefore has the same indefiniteness of meaning. So all the recent commentators. Psalm 92:4 is rendered by Dr. Moll: On the decachord and on the harp, in playing upon the cithara.—J. F. M.] Psalm 92:4. In playing, [E. V., with a solemn sound]. Higgaion (see Introduc. § 12, No. 2) is now explained by Delitzsch, in agreement with Hitzig, as an improvised musical performance, or one that expresses the fancies of the moment.
Psalm 92:11, 12. The horn is an emblem of excessive strength and at. the same time of stately grace (Del.). We are probably not to consider the buffalo (most) to be referred to, but the antelope, which was regarded by the Talmudists as single-horned. Yet the existence of the animal which is designated דְאֵם, (here incorrectly רְאֵים), Numb. 23:22; Deut. 33:17; Job 39:9–12; Ps. 29:6, can hardly be maintained upon the evidence of natural history, especially as upon both Persian and Egyptian monuments the figure of the unicorn occurs, which certainly affords no indication of its representing a rhinoceros, for the fabulous, the mythological, and the actual are there blended together. Instead of: I am anointed (1. præterite Kal from בָּלַל), some render: my being old (infin. of בָּלָה with suffix), as though the Psalmist were speaking of increase of strength in limbs rendered stiff by old age (Sept., Symm., Jerome, and others). The adjective רַעֲגָן, employed elsewhere only of the olive-tree, is here transferred to the oil itself (green=fresh, sappy). This is perhaps an evidence of a late composition, like the form שׁוּרָי, in Psalm 92:12, which has either been distorted from שֹׁרְרַי (Böttcher, Olsh.), or softened down from it (Ewald, Hitzig).
Psalm 92:13. Palm-tree.—The comparison of the endurance of God’s people to trees generally (Is. 65:22), bears allusion here to the marrowy freshness and vital force of the righteous, specialized by instancing two trees, which share with the olive (Ps. 52:10; Judg. 9:9) an almost indestructible productive power, longevity, and verdure, but surpass it in their majestic growth and the sublimity of their whole appearance. In all these qualities the palms and cedars are here contrasted with the grass in Psalm 92:8. In addition to this we can, in connection with the cedar, think of its pleasant smell (Hos. 14:7), and in connection with the palm, (for the date-palm is particularly specified), of its magnificent blossoms, which yield fruit weighing from three hundred to four hundred pounds. For this reason this palm is called by the Arabs “the blessed tree,” and “the sister of man.” It is used in Jerusalem even to the present day as an ornamental tree (Tit. Tobler, Denkwuer-digkeiten, p. 109). On the symbolical meanings of trees and flowers, see Bähr, Symbolik des mosaischen Kultus 1. 365, 376, 446 f., and Keil Der Tempel Salomos, p. 143.—The closing sentence rests upon Deut. 32:4.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. The praise of God in the Church on the days of her solemn assembly is in itself a good thing, on a good foundation, of excellent results, and of a delightful appearance. The working and ruling of God in nature and history presents an inexhaustible subject of such praise, the ordinance of the weekly sacred day, its regularly recurring occasion, and the house of God, the place adorned for its celebration. But let the Church only attend it numerously at all times, and, to the praise of God’s name, unite the acknowledgment of His mercy and truth.
2. He who has delight in God’s working and ruling, will also joyfully and thoughtfully contemplate the greatness of His works, and the depths of His thoughts, and praise them with adoring gladness, if, at the same time, he confesses that, on account of their infinite fulness (Ps. 40:6; 139:17), and immeasurable exaltation (Isa. 55:8), they are unsearchable by him (Rom. 11:33). This acknowledgment is becoming to man and wise. It corresponds perfectly to the relation between the creature and the world’s Governor and Creator, who not only dwells on high, but is Himself simply Exaltation.
3. But the people of God not only discern in the brief bloom of the wicked the seeds of their speedy destruction; they confide also in God’s care over the righteous, and experience in themselves that God is a rock, which remains immovable, and His temple a fruitful ground, from which, as His planting, His people draw the means of their vigorous growth, of their prosperity and fruitfulness.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
He who takes delight in God’s works, can neither weary in contemplating them, nor in offering the thanksgiving which is due to Him for them.—We cannot fully explore the nature of God, on account of its exaltation, but He has vouchsafed to His people through His name the way to the knowledge of Him, and the means of worshipping Him.—Without the public service of God, the Church can neither endure nor flourish: for it is planted in the courts of God.—The consolation drawn from the reflection that the preserver of the Church is the Creator and Governor of the world.—God’s name, word, and work, the means of His manifestation of Himself and of the building of His Church.—God’s exaltation declares itself in the greatness of His works and the depths of His thoughts, and calls upon us to yield ourselves up to Him in humility and trust, and to worship Him with thanksgiving and praise.
STARKE: Oh! that we were wise enough, all through our lives, to mark well what is of the greatest value. How many unprofitable things we do, and neglect the best of all life’s gifts!—Nothing is more precious, honorable, or salutary, than the praise of God’s name, for it is an angelic and heavenly employment on earth.—The day with its light and cheerfulness reminds us of the mercy of God, by which we have light and life. The night, with its fearful and deathlike darkness, teaches us to lay to heart the truth of God’s word, because in the darkness we have no other consolation than His unchangeable promises.—Beware, ye mighty, of using your power against one of God’s saints! Do ye now flourish? Ye flourish like the grass, which, before one thinks of it, is cut down.—There is no finer soil for the growth and prosperity of the righteous than the house of the Lord, wherein God plants them; for there nothing grows of itself; and what does grow of itself, is unprofitable in the Church of God.—Happy are those aged saints, who, as outward vigor fails, prove themselves so much the more fruitful in the power of the Spirit. SELNECKER: The world has great pomp and lofty titles, but God, who is the Almighty One, is the Lord of Lords, and he who clings to Him and trusts in Him, abides with Him through eternity.—ARNDT: Nothing which is not of God can endure, whether it be skill or riches or honor or power. It may indeed spring up, and be clothed with pleasant verdure, but it turns out at last to be a thistle, and is only a weed, fit for nothing but the fire.—RIEGER: He who feels no grateful joy in the goodness of God, seeks comfort in vanity, and then falls into wickedness; and in that wickedness ingratitude is the most base of all crimes; for all evil-doers sin against a beneficent God.—THOLUCK: There are no more impressive witnesses and preachers for the rising generation, than pious old men. While bodily vigor and knowledge and skill succumb to the weakness of age, their piety yields fruits that are all the sweeter the more nearly they approach the grave.—DIEDRICH: The ungodly first despise God and then murmur against Him; but those who honor His word by faith, know this above all things, that they must ever praise Him, even in death.—TAUBE: He who knows God’s name from experience of His deliverance, must love Him, and he who loves Him, must praise Him, and he who has learnt to praise Him, will never be weary of His praise.
[MATTH. HENRY: Their flourishing without is from a fatness within.—Without a living principle of grace in the heart, the profession will not be long flourishing; but where that is, “the leaf also shall not wither.”—The last days of the saints are sometimes their best days, and their last work their best work. This, indeed, shows that they are upright; perseverance is the surest evidence of sincerity.—J. F. M.]
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: