Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
1 The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice;
Let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.
2 Clouds and darkness are round about him:
Righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne.
3 A fire goeth before him,
And burneth up his enemies round about.
4 His lightnings enlightened the world:
The earth saw and trembled.
5 The hills melted like wax at the presence of the LORD,
At the presence of the LORD of the whole earth.
6 The heavens declare his righteousness,
And all the people see his glory.
7 Confounded be all they that serve graven images,
That boast themselves of idols:
Worship him, all ye gods.
8 Zion heard, and was glad;
And the daughters of Judah rejoiced
Because of thy judgments, O LORD.
9 For thou, LORD, art high above all the earth:
Thou art exalted far above all gods.
10 Ye that love the LORD, hate evil:
He preserveth the souls of his saints;
He delivereth them out of the hand of the wicked.
11 Light is sown for the righteous,
And gladness for the upright in heart.
12 Rejoice in the LORD, ye righteous;
And give thanks at the remembrance of his holiness.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
CONTENTS AND DIVISION.—The appearing of Jehovah as the heavenly judge is announced, together with His coming forth as the King of glory for the salvation and joy of many upon earth (Psalm 97:1–3). His awful majesty, in its significance, as related to the universal world, has revealed itself (4–6) to the joy of Israel and the shame of idol-worshippers (7–9), which result is to serve as a warning as well as a consolation to the righteous (10–12). The use of the præterite in the second and third strophes must not be disregarded. [PEROWNE: “The use of the past tenses in Psalm 97:4–8 and particularly the vivid language of Psalm 97:8 are most naturally explained as occasioned by some historical event, some great national deliverance or triumph of recent occurrence, such, for instance, as the overthrow of Babylon and the restoration of the Theocracy.”—J. F. M ] Nor are we to overlook the circumstance that as in Ps. 1 the description is borrowed from the Theophany on Sinai. On account of the character of the Psalm, so fruitful in great truths and so universal in its application, it is eminently suited to represent typically, not all the manifestations of God’s judicial and delivering power generally, as the thunder, for example, in Ps. 18 does, but those which in the history of the Theocracy bear an epoch-making character. On account of the numerous reproductions of passages in older Psalms, and its affinity with announcements in the Second Part of Isaiah, we are not justified in assigning it to the time of David, in accordance with the superscription in the Sept.: “By David, when his land was restored to rest” (Jerome, Hilary and others, Clauss). The time of the Maccabees (Venema, Hitzig, Olshausen) is too late. It could scarcely have been occasioned by any victory of the Israelites (Muntinghe). But such an event as the restoration of the Theocracy after the fall of Babylon (Ewald) is most readily suggested. Only we must not refer it specially to the dedication of the second Temple (Rosenm.), but, as in the whole group of which this Psalm forms a member, we must hold to its connection with the circle of prophecy following the Exile (Del.), which is concerned especially with the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord. Hupfeld regards this Psalm as without historical occasion, but as being a free, poetical working up of current images and forms of expression. This is the extreme opposite of the Messianic view, which understands the præterites, employed prophetically, as describing the end of the world and its final judgment (the Rabbins, and many older expositors).
Psalm 97:1 f. The isles are mentioned also in Ps. 72:10, as bringing tribute to the King of the kingdom of God, but after Isa. 41 they appear frequently as representing the countries outside of the Promised Land, stretching even to the furthest unknown limits of the world, as also the inhabitants of those countries. Hence the predicate: the many, is not superfluous. [This construction is unnecessary. It is better to take, as most do, the adjective as qualifying the noun directly. “The many islands”—the multitude of the islands.—In Psalm 97:2 the E. V. rendering of מְלוֹן: “habitation,” is accompanied by the marginal alternative “establishment.” Dr. Alexander prefers to retain the former. If we give to the latter idea its more definite expression: “support,” we find that both meanings may be defended by derivation and usage. But the second gives a clearer as well as more vivid and pleasing sense. Perowne, Noyes, and Barnes favor it, following the great majority of German critics. Dr. Moll translates: Saule; Delitzsch: Pfeiler; Hengstenb.: Boden. The last, expressing the idea of a groundwork or basis, serves to bring the various shades of meaning into closer relation, and probably best expresses the meaning of the original—J. F. M.]
Psalm 97:7 ff. The Elohim have here also in accordance with the Sept. been erroneously regarded as angels. It is doubtful whether Psalm 97:7c. ought to be taken as an imperative (Septuag., Syr., Hengst., Hupfeld), or as a præterite (Del., Hitzig).—In Psalm 97:11 the light is not viewed as seed, in allusion to a re-emergence from darkness (most of the ancients), but as being scattered upon the way of life which is trodden by the righteous. “Light is said to be sown when the rising sun diffuses his rays plentifully in all directions” (Venema). [Alexander unites the idea of productiveness to this.—J. F. M.] The ancient translators have probably confounded ורע with ורח: to rise (Ps. 112:4, comp. Prov. 13:9), unless they read the latter, which is indeed found in some codices.
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. God will not only have it preached that He is the King and Judge of the world, He also makes men actually sensible of this truth by historical proofs of His majesty. These are to one class a source of delight, and to another a source of terror, according to their attitude with regard to this revelation of that God who is infinitely exalted above all the world and its vain gods. The vision of Him is indeed not vouchsafed to mortals, but His presence may be traced, His coming watched for, and, at the same time, His essential character discoverable. For the fire which blazes forth from the cloudy darkness which conceals Him, and yet makes Him known as the Almighty King of Heaven, consumes not the righteous but the unrighteous, and manifests the infallible righteousness of this supreme Judge of the whole world, who has established His throne upon justice and righteousness.
2. The announcement that the Eternal has revealed Himself to the world and in the Church, must be based upon these facts, must expound them also and apply them, in a word, turn them theoretically and practically to account. For the righteousness of God, which, descending from heaven, is announced and operates on earth, embraces the whole world, separates those who love Him from the wicked, and rewards every man according to his works.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
The revelation of God’s glory in the word of truth, in the reign of righteousness, and in the workings of grace.—That which to the righteous is comforting and the source of holy joy, is to the wicked dreadful, and the object of unceasing fear; therefore they would like best not to hear or see anything of it.—There may be darkness in heaven and upon the earth, but a light is never wanting to the righteous, and it never becomes converted into a devouring fire for them, as it does for the ungodly.—The Deliverer and Judge of all the world is descending from heaven: let all the righteous sing His praise.
STARKE: Christ’s kingdom is one of joy; blessed heart which has its portion there!—The beginning of a sinner’s conversion is fearful, under the terrors of the law, but the progress and the end are joyful, under the consolations of the light of the mercy of the gospel.—He who will not have the justification of faith, must have the condemnation of unbelief.—Love to God is the true source of obedience to His commands.—True love to God is ever united with hatred of all evil.—Believers have here, it is true, only their seed-time, but they have often also the fair first-fruits of the harvest.—The joyfulness of faith under suffering is not the privilege of every one, yet the righteous encourage one another thereto assiduously (2 Cor. 6:16).
FRISCH: If thou wouldst be a citizen of God’s kingdom and His true subject, thou must also love Him, and from love to Him, hate what is evil; all will then acknowledge that thou dost belong to thy Jesus.—RIEGER: In the word of the kingdom lies all-abiding joy, and by it we learn to praise God’s holiness, in accordance with which He extends the cause of that kingdom far beyond the expectations of all men.—GUENTHER: Who rules the world? The heathen say: their idols; the wicked: the devil; unbelievers: accident, blind chance, or iron destiny. They all look into the darkness.—How many fancy that they really love God from the heart, and yet they cannot bring themselves to a true, decided hatred of evil.—DIEDRICH: When God breaks suddenly in upon men with His judgments, then even fools must see what they would not believe, that the God of the poor and distressed is eternal Righteousness and living Omnipotence itself.—TAUBE: The righteous government of the Lord: a terror to His enemies, a joy to Zion.—The measure of love to the Lord determines the measure of the joy that is felt in Him, and both attest their genuineness and purity in and by a separation from sin.
[MATT. HENRY: Whatever is matter of our rejoicing ought to be matter of our thanksgiving, and especially the holiness of God.—The joy of the saints should confirm their antipathy to sin, and Divine comforts should put their mouths out of taste to sensual pleasures.—J. F. M.]
The LORD reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.