Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
1 The LORD reigneth; let the people tremble:
He sitteth between the cherubim; let the earth be moved.
2 The LORD is great in Zion;
And he is high above all the people.
3 Let them praise thy great and terrible name;
For it is holy.
4 The king’s strength also loveth judgment;
Thou dost establish equity,
Thou executest judgment and righteousness in Jacob.
5 Exalt ye the LORD our God,
And worship at his footstool;
For he is holy.
6 Moses and Aaron among his priests,
And Samuel among them that call upon his name;
They called upon the LORD, and he answered them.
7 He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar:
They kept his testimonies,
And the ordinance that he gave them.
8 Thou answeredst them, O LORD our God:
Thou wast a God that forgavest them,
Though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions.
9 Exalt the LORD our God,
And worship at his holy hill;
For the LORD our God is holy.
EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL
CONTENTS AND DIVISION.—The three times holy is sounded here in the confessing Church upon earth, as in Is. 6 it is represented as being sung in heaven by angels. It divides the Psalm into three parts, the refrain being somewhat lengthened in each repetition. First, there is an acknowledgment of the manifestations of Jehovah’s kingly might in heaven and upon earth, which makes the world tremble, and is worthy to evoke praise to this exalted Ruler and His mighty name. To this is attached the simple acknowledgment of His holiness. This is then connected with the worship of Jehovah on the steps of His throne, as the King who has established the Theocracy in Israel. Finally, both the place of worship and the object to whom it is due are particularly described, after it had been shown from the history of Israel previous to the establishment of the Monarchy, that God’s kingdom is not dependent upon the existence of earthly kings, but is regulated in accordance with a course of action, in harmony with its true nature, both on the part of the Church and on the part of God. This analysis and view of the Psalm avoids the difficulties and artificial character of the usual division into two parts, to which Hengstenberg also adheres, except that he regards Psalm 99:1 as the Theme prefixed. Hupfeld also finds a reference to the history of the leading through the desert, as in Ps. 95 and 81, joined to an appeal to the people of Israel to praise Jehovah as the mighty and dreadful King of the world, who also loves that justice which He has established and administered among His people. The exact point of view of this allusion and its connection, both internal and with the first part, is, according to him, rather obscurely expressed. The threefold division of Bengel and his school, approved by Delitzsch, according to which the Lord is praised as He that is coming, He who is, and He who was, is open to the same objections. Our view agrees more closely with the text, explains the mention of the three most important men in the Theocracy before the time of David, and preserves for the Psalm its peculiar character, which indicates decisively its position in the period after the destruction of the kingdom. That the ark of the covenant was still in existence at that time, according to Psalm 99:1 and 5, and that therefore this Psalm, with its whole cycle and the second part of Isaiah, is to be assigned to a period preceding the Exile (Hengstenberg) is not an “indisputable fact,” but an unsupported inference. [Perowne, who does not attempt to settle the time of composition, remarks on the character and position of the Psalm: “This is the last of the series of royal Psalms, of Psalms which celebrate the coming of Jehovah as King. The first of this series is the 93d. The 99th, like the 93d and 97th, opens with the joyful announcement that Jehovah is King, and then bids all men fall down, and confess His greatness, and worship Him who alone is holy. Both the first and the last of the series celebrate the kingly majesty and the holiness of Jehovah, and also the holiness of His worship. In this Psalm, the true character of His worshippers as consecrated priests, holy, set apart for His service, is illustrated by the example of holy men of old, like Moses, Aaron, and Samuel.”—J. F. M.]
Psalm 99:1 ff. Throned upon the cherubim. [E. V. he sitteth between the cherubim]. The participle is dependent upon the preceding מָלָךְ as defining the nature and manner of Jehovah’s reign (Olshausen). The expression itself always denotes a manifestation of the kingly majesty of Jehovah in the world (see on Ps. 18:11) whether it be from heaven or out of Zion, and is connected with the belief, not merely of the identity of the heavenly King and the God who was adored in Zion, but also of His presence in Israel. The Cherubim are represented, therefore, as being both over the ark of the covenant and in the chariot of heaven, and in the temple also in various forms, and if the term is applied also to the place of the throne over the ark of the covenant, and derives its most frequent application therefrom, the usage of this expression, which had become an established designation of God in His definite relation to the world and the history of the Theocracy, Ps. 80:3, can no longer be urged in proof of the actual contemporaneous existence of the ark of the covenant.
Psalm 99:5. The footstool in Psalm 99:5 is to be viewed in the same way, although it is not distinguished as an object of adoration, by means of a rhetorical figure (Hupfeld), but as the place where it is offered, in allusion to prostration upon the steps of the throne. The expression might, it is true, be referred to the covering of the ark of the covenant (Ps. 132:7, 8; 1 Chron. 28:2) and it is such a general one, that it may characterize even the whole earth in relation to heaven, the throne of that God who rules the world and fills all space (Is. 66:1). But here, as Psalm 99:9 shows, it denotes the sanctuary at Jerusalem (Lam. 2:1) as the dwelling of God, where He has His throne (Ps. 5:8; 138:2) and the place of His feet (Is. 60:13; Ezek. 43:7), without implying thereby the existence of the ark of the covenant.
Psalm 99:4. And the might of a King who loveth justice [E. V.: The king’s strength also loveth judgment]. The connection by “and” does not contain any convincing ground for the assumption, that the sentence continues to enumerate objects of praise (Isaaki, Rosenmüller and others) and, accordingly, that Psalm 99:3 b, is a parenthesis (De Wette, Hengst.). This would destroy the strophical structure. Nor does it justify us in detaching this member of the verse from the following as an independent sentence, or in considering it as a parallel confession to the words that refer to the holiness of Jehovah (or His person). According to the last view, עז is taken inadmissibly as denoting majesty, and the article is supplied, thus affording the rendering: the majesty of the king is loving justice. (The ancient translators and expositors). Nor can we regard the abstract as an adjective: the strong king (Hupfeld). The position of the words favors the view that “loving justice” is a relative clause (Chald., Aben Ezra, Delitzsch, Hitzig), and that “might” is the accusative of the object preceding its verb. The idea, that with this King omnipotence and righteousness are inseparable, is retained; but it is placed in direct connection with the actual verification of that truth, which is the occasion and subject of this Psalm, and by which the might or strength of the King is confirmed, as elsewhere His throne is said to be, (Ps. 9:8; 2 Sam. 7:13; 1 Chron. 17:12). Jehovah has administered justice and righteousness in Jacob by means of the Theocracy. [The author renders accordingly: And the might of the king, who loveth righteousness, hast thou established in uprightness; justice and righteousness hast thou fulfilled in Jacob.—J. F. M.].
Psalm 99:6 ff. Moses twice performed acts essentially priestly (Ex. 24 and 40:22 f, comp. Lev. 8), at the ratification of the covenant, and at the consecration of the priests. For this reason he could the more readily be placed here among the priestly mediators. Among the suppliants Samuel is given the prominence (1 Sam. 7:8 f.; 12:16 f.; Sirach 46:16 f.). But he too offered sacrifices and blessed the offerings (1 Sam. 9:13), as Moses also prayed mightily (Ex. 17:11 f.; 32: 30f.; Ps. 106:23). [HENGSTENBERG: “The whole passage proceeds upon the view that the communication of new precepts and rules of life shall be bound up with the future glorious revelation of the Lord. The people are here told how they may gain participation in this. Participation in the new covenant is the reward of faithfulness to the old. If we observe the commandments of God, we shall receive the commandments of God, and with them salvation.”—J. F. M.]. On the cloudy pillar see especially Numb. 12:5, and Ex. 33:7. [Psalm 99:7. ALEXANDER: “The pronoun in the first clause (them), can only refer to Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, in the second it is applicable both to them and to the people; in the third it relates to the latter exclusively.”—J. F. M.].
DOCTRINAL AND ETHICAL
1. God makes known by deeds of kingly might, what He is, a King above all kings, and will be regarded and acknowledged as such on earth as in heaven. Therefore He insists upon the honor of His name, in which He reveals the august majesty of His being, and will have it regarded as holy, as He Himself is holy.
2. But God shows His pre-eminent kingly glory not only in manifestations of His might, which shake the world, make the people quake, and invest His name with dreadful exaltation. He has begun upon earth a kingdom of righteousness, whose king He Himself appoints and qualifies, whose lasting duration He Himself assures and effects; whose inhabitants He calls and leads to piety in the worship of Himself as the true God. He has made the historical beginning of this system in the family of Jacob, and has placed its central point in Zion.
3. God, however, long before the establishment of the actual kingdom among the Israelites, instituted the ordinances of His worship through mediators whom He called, and, in their administration, proved Himself to be the living God of revelation, who hears prayer and forgives sin, and yet keeps watch over the observance of His precepts, in order that He may be feared as the Avenger of human deeds.
HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL
Those who praise the thrice-holy One must adore Him as the true God, serve Him as the heavenly King, and trust Him as the effectual Deliverer.—God will hear our prayers and we must keep His commandments.—God is holy in the exercise of His power, in the manifestation of His wrath, in dispensing His mercy.—The part borne by God’s righteousness in founding, preserving, and ruling His church upon earth.—There is a trembling of fear as there is a trembling of hope and joy, but all these emotions, if they are to tend to salvation, must be combined with subjection to the great king who is a mighty Ruler, as well as a holy God.
STARKE: God delights to dwell among those who look with their faces towards the throne of grace, for over them will He spread the wings of His mercy.—Mark this ye unrighteous! In Christ’s kingdom men must love justice; your wicked perversions of it will not succeed there.—Before all things we must pray in penitence for forgiveness of sins; otherwise our sins will hinder us in our efforts to obtain blessings.—The hearing of prayer and forgiveness of sins are not irreconcilable with God’s chastisements, they can very well coexist.—If men bend low before an earthly king, how much more are we bound to do so towards the heavenly king!—God is holy! These words should pervade our minds whenever we hold intercourse with God, and many forbidden thoughts would then be expelled.
OSIANDER: God always remains true to His promises, and fulfils them, though we are not worthy that He should hear us.—SELNECKER: God has begun His kingdom on Zion and not on Mount Sinai. It is not a kingdom of wrath, but of mercy.—MENZEL: The kingdom of Christ is distinguished from all nations of the world, not only by its being spiritual and being concerned with spiritual things, but also by its leading and pointing the way to all justice and righteousness.—FRISCH: Yield thyself only to the protection of God’s grace, and pray the more earnestly that His kingdom may come, and the devil cannot prevent it with all his cunning and strength. It must advance within and without thee, and end at last in glory and majesty.—ARNDT: Is not that a fair and gracious kingdom which possesses these characteristics: (1) to love justice; (2) to induce piety; (3) to work justice and righteousness!—RIEGER: What no human laws can avail to effect, namely, that none who are innocent shall be injured or molested, and that none who are guilty shall sin with impunity, is accomplished in God’s kingdom and by His righteousness.—THOLUCK: God in His mercy has granted to His people powerful intercessors. It is true that He has punished their iniquities: yet He has not turned His mercy away from them, but forgiven them for the sake of those intercessors. Can Israel forget this?—VAIHINGER: The more highly God is glorified, the lower must men bow to Him.—RICHTER (Hausbibel): Glorify the kingly majesty of the Lord! Pay homage to His righteousness! Draw near to Him as His servants!—GUENTHER: Without commotion and trembling and quaking there is no revelation from God.—To the elect God is at the same time the Pardoner and Avenger of sin. Let the heart tremble, and the conscience be aroused; fear the Avenger and love the God of mercy!—DIEDRICH: God’s highest majesty is not displayed in the creation, nor in the government of the world, but in His gracious dealings among sinful men whom He has chosen to Himself. In this He shows how He is our King, by taking our deepest cares upon Himself.—TAUBE: It is just that the fulness of mercy should fall into the bosom of faith; it is just that the wrath of the Lamb should be the most severe.
[MATT. HENRY: The more we abase ourselves, and the more prostrate we are before God, the more we exalt Him.—J. F. M.].
The LORD reigneth; let the people tremble: he sitteth between the cherubims; let the earth be moved.