Psalm 68
Matthew Poole's Commentary
To the chief Musician, A Psalm or Song of David. Let God arise, let his enemies be scattered: let them also that hate him flee before him.

The occasion of this Psalm seems to have been David’s translation of the ark to Zion, which was managed with great solemnity and devotion, and celebrated with some Psalms, and this among the rest. For the first words are the very same which Moses appointed for such occasions, Numbers 10:35, and the following verses pursue the same matter with the first. Thence he falls into a description of some of the excellent properties and glorious works of the God to whom this ark belonged. But because David very well knew that both himself and the ark were types of Christ, and that the church and people of Israel were a type of the catholic church, consisting of Jews and Gentiles, and that the legal administrations and actions were types of those of the gospel, he therefore, by the Spirit of prophecy, looked through and beyond the present actions and types, unto the great mysteries of Christ’s resurrection and ascension into heaven, and of the special privileges of the Christian church, and of the conversion of the Gentiles unto God, and therefore intermixeth some passages which directly and immediately belong to these things, although the words be so ordered that they carry a manifest allusion to the present actions, and may in some sort be applied to them, though in a more obscure and improper and secondary sense. Nor is it at all strange that in the same Psalm there is such a mixture of things, whereof some belong only to the actions or events of that time, and some only to Christ and the gospel times, if it be considered that the psalmist in himself doth frequently express divers, and those contrary, passions and dispositions, as hope and fear, &c., in the same Psalm, and sometimes in the same verse, and especially that the sacred penmen in the composition of these writings were men wholly inspired, and governed, and moved by the Holy Ghost, 2 Peter 1:21, by whom they were variously transported, as he saw fit, and sometimes carried away to speak of the highest mysteries of the gospel, even such things as they themselves did not fully understand, as appears from 1 Peter 1:10,11.

At the removing of the ark, David exhorteth to praise the Lord, Psalm 68:1-5, for his wonderful power and love in delivering his people out of Egypt, Psalm 68:6; leading them through the wilderness, Psalm 68:7-11; subduing their enemies, Psalm 68:12; and choosing Zion for his habitation, Psalm 68:13-18. He blesseth God for his judgments on the church’s enemies, Psalm 68:19-21; for his promises to his people, Psalm 68:22-29; and for his threats to the cruel, Psalm 68:30. The kingdoms of the earth are called to sing to the Lord, whose power and majesty is heard in the heavens, and whose strength and excellency is over Israel, Psalm 68:31-35.

Let God arise; oh that God would arise from his seat, and bestir himself and go forth to fight with his enemies! who, if he do so, will easily and suddenly be scattered. Or, God will arise. And so the other verbs following may be rendered, as being of the future tense, shall be scattered, shall flee, &c. Although the futures are frequently render. ed imperatively; and so they are truly rendered Numbers 10:35, whence this verse is taken. Hate him. All God’s enemies are here said to hate God, not directly and formally, for there are few such persons, but because they hate his laws and government, and his people and image, and because they fight against him and his, which is justly taken for an evidence of hatred.

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.
As smoke is driven away; as smoke at first mounts high and fills a great space of air, but speedily vanisheth into air, or is dispersed with the wind.

But let the righteous be glad; let them rejoice before God: yea, let them exceedingly rejoice.
For God’s gracious appearance on their behalf, and for his settled presence with them.

Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.
Extol him, by praising him; of which this verb is used, Proverbs 4:8. Or rather, raise up or prepare the way for him; for so this word is commonly used, as Isaiah 57:14 57:10, and elsewhere. And this doubtless they did for this solemnity of bringing the ark to Zion. Compare Isaiah 40:3. That rideth upon the heavens; which phrase is used below, Psalm 68:33, though in differing words. Or, that did ride in the desert, where the ark was carried, and God marched along with it in the cloudy pillar. Or, that now rideth as (which particle is frequently understood) in the desert, i.e. that is now carried from place to place as it was in the desert. The word here rendered heavens doth generally signify the desert or plain fields, as Numbers 33:48,50 36:13 Joshua 5:10 2 Samuel 4:7 Isaiah 40:3, compared with Luke 3:4.

By his name Jah; whereby he is known and distinguished from all false gods; for Jah is generally conceived to be an abbreviature of the name Jehovah, which the heathens pronounced Jao.

Before him; before the ark, where he is present, as David himself is said, to dance before the Lord upon this occasion, 2 Samuel 6:14.

A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.
He now enters upon some of the matters or reasons for which God is to be extolled; whereof this is one, that he is the patron of such as are injured and oppressed, and have not power to help themselves.

In his holy habitation; either in his tabernacle, or in heaven. Though he dwells there, yet the eyes of his fatherly providence and care run to and fro to help his people when they are distressed.

God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains: but the rebellious dwell in a dry land.
Setteth the solitary in families; such as were single and solitary he blesseth with a wife and children, as he did Abraham. Houses are oft put for posterity, as Exodus 1:21 Ruth 4:11 2 Samuel 7:11.

Bringeth out those which are bound with chains; he setteth captives and prisoners at liberty, as he did the Israelites, &c.

The rebellious; those who rebel against God, as the Egyptians did.

Dwell in a dry land; are deprived of all true comfort, and plagued with manifold calamities.

O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, when thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah:
In the cloudy pillar, as their Captain leading them out of Egypt.

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.
The earth; either,

1. Metonymically, the inhabitants of those parts of the earth, by comparing Exodus 15:14. Or,

2. Properly, by comparing Psalm 114:5-7. There was a great earthquake, as a token of God’s dreadful presence.

Dropped, i.e. poured down great showers, which accompanied those mighty thunders, as usually it doth. Was moved; or, dropped; which may be repeated out, of the former clause; was even melted or dissolved with fear. It is a poetical representation of the terribleness of God’s appearance.

Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby thou didst confirm thine inheritance, when it was weary.
Send a plentiful rain; either,

1. In the wilderness; where they oft wanted water, and were by God’s extraordinary care supplied with it. Or rather,

2. In the land of Canaan, which he calls God’s inheritance in the next words; as also Exodus 15:17, and in many other places of Scripture; in which God’s people are said to dwell in the next verse, of which, and the things done in it, lie speaks in the following verses, and which, being destitute of those constant supplies from the overflowings of a great river which Egypt enjoyed, God took a special care to supply with rain as occasion required; of which see Deu 11:10,11.

Confirm; or, stablish, or support, or sustain.

Thine inheritance; either thy people; or rather thy land, as was now said. Weary; dry and thirsty, and parched with excessive heat, and ready to faint for want of rain: compare Psalm 63:1.

Thy congregation hath dwelt therein: thou, O God, hast prepared of thy goodness for the poor.
Thy congregation; thy people of Israel, who are all united in one body under thee, their Head and Governor. For though this word commonly signifies living creatures, yet sometimes it signifies a company of men, as here below, Psalm 68:31, and 2 Samuel 23:13, compared with 1 Chronicles 11:15 Psalm 74:19. Or the proper signification of the word may be retained, and it may be rendered thy flock; for God oft compares himself to a shepherd, and his people to sheep, and particularly he is said to have led his people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron, Psalm 77:20, to wit, in the wilderness; and consequently he may be here said to have brought his sheep into and made them to dwell in Canaan, as in a green and good pasture, as God speaks of his people under this very metaphor, Psalm 23:2.

Prepared; or, prepared it; which pronoun is oft understood, and here most easily out of the foregoing clause of this verse, where it is expressed. Prepared it, to wit, this land, for the use of thy people; which God did many ways; partly by designing it for them, and expelling the old inhabitants to make way for them; and partly by furnishing it with all sorts of provisions, both for necessity. and delight, and making it fruitful by his special blessing, in giving rain in its proper seasons.

Of thy goodness; by thy free and singular goodness; which may be referred both to the cause of this preparation, God did it not for their righteousness or worthiness, but out of his mere mercy, as God oft telleth them; and to the manner and measure of it, God did wonderfully increase the fruits of it, that it might suffice for the supply of such a numerous people; which without his extraordinary blessing it would not do, as appears by the state of that land at this day, as it is reported by travellers and eye-witnesses of it.

For the poor, to wit, for thy people of Israel, whom he here calls poor, partly to repress that pride and arrogance to which they are exceeding prone, and to mind them of the dependence upon God for all that they have and hope for; and partly because they really were, when God undertook the conduct of them into Canaan, a very poor and beggarly people, and so they would have still been, if God had not provided for them in a singular manner.

The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.
Gave the word, i.e. the matter of the word or discourse here following. He put this triumphant song into their mouths; he gave his people all those successes and victories which are here celebrated. Or, gave the matter or thing which was published.

Great was the company of those that published it: the works of God on the behalf of his people were so glorious and wonderful, that all sorts of persons, both men and women, that heard of them, broke forth into songs of praise to God for them. The Hebrew word is of the feminine gender, because it was the manner of the Hebrews, that when the men returned victorious from the battle, the women went out to meet them with songs of triumph, Psalm 68:25 Exodus 15:20 Judges 11:34 1 Samuel 18:6.

Kings of armies did flee apace: and she that tarried at home divided the spoil.
Kings of armies; the kings of Canaan and other nations which came forth against the Israelites, accompanied with great and numerous armies.

The spoil was so much, that there was enough, not only for the proper use of those who took it, but also to be divided to their wives and children when they came home. This verse and that which follows may be taken, either,

1. For the triumphant song sung by those publishers mentioned Psalm 68:11. Or,

2. For the words of David, continuing the relation of the victories granted by God to Israel ever their enemies.

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.
Though ye, ye Israelites, to whom he now turneth his speech,

have lien among the pots; like scullions, that commonly lie down in the kitchen among the pots or hearthstones, whereby they are very much discoloured and deformed; which is fitly opposed to the following beauty. Though you have been filled with affliction and contempt.

Shall ye be; or, ye have been; which may seem more suitable to the context, both foregoing and following, wherein he doth not speak prophetically of things to come, but historically of things past. So the sense of the verse is, Though you have formerly been exposed to great servitude, and reproach, and misery, to wit, in Egypt, yet since that time God hath changed your condition greatly for the better.

As the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold; beautiful and glorious, like the feathers of a dove, which according to the variety of its postures, and of the light shining upon it, look like silver or gold.

When the Almighty scattered kings in it, it was white as snow in Salmon.
In it; in Canaan, at the coming of the Israelites thither. The land was as white as Mount Salmon is with the snow, which falls and lies for a long time upon it; which is opposed to the native obscurity of that mountain by the many shady trees which were there, Judges 9:48. But because there is nothing certain, either concernirig the great height of this mountain, or concerning its snow, as we do read of snow of Lebanon, Jeremiah 18:14, other interpreters, both Hebrew and Christian, and the Chaldee among the rest, take this word Salmon for a common, and not a proper name, signifying darkness or a shadow, as the root from whence it comes unquestionably signifies. Nor is it strange if this word be no where else taken in that sense but here, because that is the lot of many Hebrew words, or of some significations of them, that they are to be found but in one text of Scripture. This being granted, the words are or may be rendered thus, it was snow-white, or thou madest it snow-white in darkness, or, as the Chaldee renders this word, in the shadow of death, i.e. thou didst cause light to shine out of darkness. When the state of thy people, and of the land of Canaan which thou hadst given to them, was dark and dismal or bloody, by reason of the wars raised against them by the Canaanitish kings, thou didst quickly change it; and whereas it was red like scarlet or crimson, thou madest it whiter than snow.

The hill of God is as the hill of Bashan; an high hill as the hill of Bashan.
The hill of God, i.e. of Zion, the seat of God’s ark.

As the hill of Bashan; equal to it, to wit, in height, as the next clause explains it; which yet is not to be understood of an external and visible height, for Zion was a low and little hill, and Bashan a very high hill; but of its spiritual height, or exaltation, in regard of the glorious privileges of God’s presence, and worship, and blessing conferred upon it, in which respect the mountain of the Lord’s house is said to be established on the top of the mountains, and exalted above the hills, Isaiah 2:2.

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.
Why leap ye? why do you triumph and boast of your height, and look upon poor Zion with scorn and contempt, as an obscure and inconsiderable hill, if compared with you? He speaks to the hills by a usual figure called prosopopaeia. This hill, though despicable in your eyes, is precious and honourable in God’s eyes, and chosen by him for his settled and perpetual residence. For though the ark was removed from this particular place, in which it was now to be placed, to the hill of Moriah, upon which the temple was built, yet it must be remembered that Zion and Moriah stood one near to the other, being both in Jerusalem, and are by some said to have been but two tops of one and the same hill.

The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: the Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place.
The chariots of God, i.e. the hosts or armies (whereof chariots were a great and eminent part in those times and places) which attend upon God to do his pleasure, and to fight for him and for his people.

Twenty thousand, i.e. an innumerable company; a certain number being put for an uncertain, as Psalm 3:6 91:7, and in many other places.

The Lord is among them; here is not only the presence of the angels, but of the great and blessed God himself. And here the psalmist seems to be transported by the prophetical spirit, from the narration of those external successes and victories of which he had been speaking in the former part of the Psalm, unto the prediction of higher and more glorious things, even of the coming of the Messiah, and of the happy and transcendent privileges and blessings accruing to mankind by it, described in the next verse. And the connexion of this new matter with the former is sufficiently evident. For having preferred Zion before other hills, Psalm 68:15,16, he now proves its excellency by an invincible argument, because this is the place to which the Lord of hosts himself, the Messiah, God manifested in the flesh, was to come, as is manifest from Psalm 2:6 90:2 Isaiah 2:3 28:16, compared with 1 Peter 2:6 Isaiah 59:20, compared with Romans 11:26, and many other places of Scripture. And when he did come into the world, he was attended with a multitude of holy angels, which celebrated his birth, Luke 2:13,14.

As in Sinai, in the holy place; God is no less gloriously, though less terribly, present here than he was in Sinai, when the great God, attended with thousands of his angels, solemnly appeared there to deliver the law. Heb. Sinai is in the sanctuary, or holy place; which is a poetical and a very emphatical expression, and very pertinent to this place. For having advanced Zion above all other hills, he now equals it to that venerable hill of Sinai, which the Divine Majesty honoured with his glorious presence. Here, saith he, you have in some sort Mount Sinai itself, to wit, all the glories and privileges of it, the presence of Jehovah attended with his angels, and the same law and covenant, yea, and a greater privilege than Sinai had, to wit, the Lord Jehovah descending from heaven into a human body, as appears by his ascending thither again, which the next verse describes, and visibly coming into his own temple, as it was prophesied concerning him, Malachi 3:1.

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.
Thou hast ascended on high; having spoken of the Lord, and of his presence upon earth, he now turneth his speech to him, as is most usual in this book. And the contents of this verse do not agree to the present occasion of carrying the ark to Zion, but have a manifest reference to Christ, and to his ascension into heaven, in whom, and in whom alone, they are literally and fully accomplished, and to whom therefore they are ascribed, Ephesians 4:8. Although the expressions here used are borrowed from the ancient custom of princes, or generals of armies, who, after some glorious achievements and victories, used to go up into their royal cities in triumphant chariots, being attended by their captive enemies, and afterward to distribute divers gifts to their soldiers and subjects, and sometimes to do some acts of grace and clemency even to their rebels and enemies, and to receive them into the number of his own people.

Captivity; either,

1. Those who did formerly take thy people captives. Or rather,

2. Those whom thou hast taken captive, as this word is most commonly used, as Numbers 21:1 Deu 21:10 Judges 5:12, &c. So poverty is put for the poor, 2 Kings 24:14. This is meant of death, and sin, and the devil, and all the enemies of Christ and of his people, whom Christ led in triumph, having spoiled them, and making a show of them openly, as it is expressed, Colossians 2:15.

Thou hast received gifts; though as thou art God thou art uncapable of receiving any thing more than thou hast, yet according to thy manhood thou hast received from God all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and all those gifts and graces of the Holy Spirit which are necessary either to the perfection of thy nature, or to the discharge of thine office, or to the service and good of thy church and people. For men: not for thyself, for thou didst not need them, having the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in thee bodily, Colossians 2:9; but for the sons of men, or which thou mightest give unto men; whence for receiving for men, the apostle justly saith gave unto men, Ephesians 4:8, because he received them for no other end but to give them, and in such cases receiving or taking is oft put for giving, or for taking and giving, as Exodus 25:2 Judges 14:2 1 Kings 3:24 17:10, &c.

For the rebellious also: nor didst thou only receive gifts for and give them to thy friends and people, as the manner of other conquerors is, but also to thy most stubborn and rebellious enemies, whether Jews or Gentiles, who resolved to break thy bands asunder, and to cast away thy cords from them as is said, Psalm 2:3; and would not have thee to reign over them, Luke 19:14; who crucified him, and put him to open shame; and yet to these, as well as others, thou didst give those saving gifts and graces, as we read, Ac 2, and elsewhere.

That the Lord God might dwell among them; that having received such gifts, and thereby being made fit habitations for God, he who as man is ascended into the highest heavens, might as God come down to them, and dwell with them, not only in and by his ordinances, in which he is present, but also by his Spirit dwelling in their hearts by faith. Or, that they might dwell with the Lord God; the particle with being either understood, as it is in many places, or being contained in the Hebrew verb shacan, which, as some Hebrew critics observe, signifies not only to dwell, but to dwell with another; of which the learned may see many instances in Forsterus’s Hebrew Lexicon. So the sense is, that they who were estranged and at a distance from God, and enemies to him, might draw near to him, and dwell with him both here and in heaven.

Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.
Who daily loadeth us with benefits; and besides that great and glorious blessing of his ascension which once he wrought for us, he is daily conferring new favours upon us. Heb. who layeth load upon us; which may be understood either,

1. Of the burden of afflictions, for which God’s people have cause to bless God upon many accounts. Or rather,

2. Of mercies and favours, which is more agreeable to the context; wherewith in common speech men are said to be loaded by another when they receive them from him in great abundance.

The God of our salvation; the only Author and Finisher both of our present and of our eternal salvation.

He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death.
Belong, i.e. they are only in his hand and power to dispose them as he pleaseth.

The issues, Heb. the outgoings or evasions, escapes or deliverances, as a Greek word of the same signification is used, 1 Corinthians 10:13. From death; or, in (as the Hebrew lamed is used, Psalm 16:10 31:17) death, i.e. the most deadly dangers, yea, even death itself, in and from which God through Christ delivers his people.

But God shall wound the head of his enemies, and the hairy scalp of such an one as goeth on still in his trespasses.
The head; either,

1. The political head, their ruler or rulers, the devil or other wicked Christians. Or rather,

2. The natural head, as appears from the following expression, added to explain this, and

the hairy scalp; and he speaks of the heads or hairy scalps not of one, but of all his enemies; the singular number being put for the plural, than which nothing is more frequent. The hairy scalp, i.e. his most fierce and terrible enemies. For in ancient times many people used to wear long and shaggy hair, that their looks might be more terrible to their enemies.

Of such a one as goeth on still in his trespasses; of those who persist in their enmity and rebellion against him; whereby he opens a door of hope and mercy to his very enemies, if they return and submit themselves to him.

The Lord said, I will bring again from Bashan, I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea:
The Lord said; either within himself, he purposed or he promised; for so he had done by divers of his prophets, though not in the same words which are here used, yet to the same purpose.

I will bring again from Bashan; I will repeat my ancient favours, and give my people as great deliverances as I formerly did, when I saved them from that great giant Og king of Bashan, who came out against them with all his forces, Deu 3:1; whom I delivered into their hand, as it there follows; which deliverance is oft mentioned in succeeding scriptures as one of the most eminent.

From the depths of the sea; from the Egyptians at the Red Sea, and from the Red Sea itself, through which I brought them with honour and safety, when it overwhelmed their enemies.

That thy foot may be dipped in the blood of thine enemies, and the tongue of thy dogs in the same.
And as it was at the Red Sea and at Bashan before, so yet again thine enemies shall be slain in such great numbers, that thou mayst wade in their blood, and thy dogs lick it up in the field.

They have seen thy goings, O God; even the goings of my God, my King, in the sanctuary.
They have seen: it is an indefinite expression; men saw and observed it, thy people to their comfort, and thine enemies with terror and astonishment.

Thy goings; either,

1. How thou didst march before them through the Red Sea and the wilderness, even until thou didst bring them into Canaan, and afterward, as occasion was, and how thou didst subdue their enemies before them. Or rather,

2. The procession of the ark to Zion, the solemnity whereof is particularly described in the following verses.

In the sanctuary; or, in holiness; for it was not a light and carnal, but a holy pomp; or, in the holy place; as the ark, in and with which God is supposed to go, might very fitly and truly be called. Or into the sanctuary, or holy tabernacle, prepared for it; whither the ark was now going.

The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; among them were the damsels playing with timbrels.
The singers went before, the players on instruments followed after; of which see 2 Samuel 6:15 1 Chronicles 13:8. Playing with timbrels, according to the usage of those times. See Exodus 15, &c.

Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord, from the fountain of Israel.
Or, as it is rendered in our margin, and by many others, ye that are of or from the fountain of Israel, or Jacob, i.e. all ye people of Israel, who are called the

fountain of Jacob, Deu 33:28, and said to come forth out of the waters of Judah, Isaiah 48:1, and consequently of Jacob or Israel. See also Proverbs 5:18 Isaiah 51:1. And this sense seems to be confirmed by the following verse, wherein this fountain is distributed into its several streams, the tribes of Israel. But these words may be and are by some joined with the former, either thus, Bless—the Lord for the fountain of Israel, i.e. for that fountain which God hath opened to Israel for the purging away of sin and uncleanness, as it is expressed Zechariah 13:1, even the blood and Spirit of Christ. and all those spiritual blessings which God confers upon his people in his sanctuary, and by his ordinances; which are oft compared to waters, as Isaiah 12:3 Ezekiel 47:1; and to a fountain or well, as Joel 3:18 John 4:14. See also Proverbs 14:27 Jeremiah 2:13. Or thus, Bless—the Lord who is of the fountain of Israel, i.e. who though he be the most high God, yet according to the flesh is descended from Israel, as is noted, Romans 9:5. But the first sense seems most natural and easy.

There is little Benjamin with their ruler, the princes of Judah and their council, the princes of Zebulun, and the princes of Naphtali.
There is present in this solemn pomp of carrying the ark to Zion, under the conduct of David their king,

little Benjamin. That tribe is called little, partly because it was the youngest, as being descended from Jacob’s youngest son Benjamin; and principally because it was exceedingly diminished, and almost extinguished, under the judges, Judges 20 Jud 21. He mentions this tribe, partly because they were nearest unto Judah, and to the place whither the ark was going; and partly to note their reconciliation and submission to David, against whom they had stood out with more obstinacy than any other tribe, as having been so long used to govern, and loth to part with the regal dignity which was by God’s appointment first seated among them.

With their ruler; with the prince of their tribe, who marched in the head of them. Heb. the ruler, i.e. the tribe which had lately swayed the sceptre, but now submitted themselves to David, and waited upon him in this expedition. But the first sense seems the truest, because the princes of all the following tribes are here mentioned.

Their council; their counsellors; or rather, their company, as it is in the margin, the people of that tribe who waited upon them in that action; which may seem to be here noted, to intimate that though the princes only of the following tribes be yet the people are comprehended under them, and were present with them in that solemnity. Zebulun and Naphtali: he mentions these tribes, either,

1. Because they excelled in learning and knowledge, as is gathered from Genesis 49:21 Deu 33:19 Judges 5:14. Or,

2. Because they were more hearty and forward in complying with David and in his service than the rest, as may seem from the great number of them which came from the ends of the land to David in Hebron, 1 Chronicles 12:33,34. Or,

3. Because they lived in the remotest parts of the land of Canaan. And so by naming two of the nearest tribes, and two of the furthest, he leaves it to be understood that the other tribes also did come upon this occasion, as is manifest from 2 Samuel 6:15,19 1 Chronicles 13:2,5,6,8 15:3,28.

Thy God hath commanded thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us.
Having spoken of Israel, and of their several tribes, Psalm 68:26,27, he now directeth his speech to them.

Hath commanded, i.e. hath ordained or effectually procured, as this word is oft used, as Leviticus 25:21 Deu 28:8 Psalm 42:8 44:4.

Thy strength; all that strength and power which thou hast put forth at any time in fighting with thine enemies, and which is now greatly increased by the re-collection and union of all the tribes under one head, which is the work of God himself, without whom all the differences and animosities which had for many years been among them could never have been composed and quieted. Seeing therefore all our strength is in thee and from thee alone, we pray unto thee for the continuance and increase of our strength, and that thou wouldst proceed to finish that good work which thou hast begun among us, by preserving, and confirming, and perpetuating this blessed union, and by giving us a more full and universal deliverance from our enemies.

Because of thy temple at Jerusalem shall kings bring presents unto thee.
Thy temple; either,

1. The old tabernacle which then was; which is oft called by this name. But that was now at Gibeon, not at Jerusalem. Or rather,

2. The temple which Solomon should build, which David knew should be very magnifical, of fame and of glory throughout all countries, as he saith, 1 Chronicles 22:5; and such as would command esteem and reverence even from heathenish princes and people, and that not only for its most splendid and glorious structure, but especially for the wonderful works of the God of that temple wrought by him on the behalf of his people, and in answer to the prayers made in the temple; of which see 1 Kings 8:41-43.

Kings; kings of the Gentiles; which was done in part in the times of Solomon and Hezekiah, 1 Kings 10:11,24,25 2 Chronicles 32:23, and afterwards by others; but more fully when the Lord Christ was come into his temple, according to that prophecy, Malachi 3:1, and had built a better temple instead of it, even the Christian church, to which the kings and nations of the earth were to flow in great abundance, according to the tenor of many prophecies in the Old Testament.

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.
Rebuke, to wit, really; humble and chastise those that will not bring presents to thee, as the kings did, Psalm 68:29, till they see their error and submit themselves, as it here follows.

The company; so this word signifies here above, Psalm 68:11 2 Samuel 23:11 Psalm 74:19. Or, the beast, or wild beast, as this word is elsewhere used, i.e. the beasts; the singular being put for the plural: so the sense is the same.

Spear-men, Heb. of the reed, i.e. that use spears or arrows; which may be called reeds, either because in length and form they resemble reeds, or because anciently they were made of reeds. And this sense seems favoured by the last words of this verse, in which he explains this and the other metaphors of warriors. Or the reed may be taken properly; and by the beast of the reed he may understand the king of Egypt, who then was a very potent and a most idolatrous king, and a great and old enemy to the true religion, and to the people of Israel, whom therefore he desires God to rebuke and humble, that he may acknowledge the true God, which is foretold that he shall do, Psalm 68:31. As for this enigmatical designation of this king, that is agreeable enough both to the usage of the prophets in such cases, and to the rules of prudence; and upon the same account the prophet Jeremiah, threatening destruction against Babylon, calls it enigmatically Sheshach, Jeremiah 25:26 51:41, and St. Paul calls Nero the lion, 2 Timothy 4:17. But then this one king, being eminent in his kind, is by a usual synecdoche put for all of them which were enemies to God’s people.

Bulls; by which he doubtless understands men of war, as the following words expound it; the great, and potent, and fierce, and furious adversaries of God, and of his church, as this word is used, Psalm 22:12 Isaiah 34:7. And consequently

the calves must be their people or soldiers depending upon them, and joining with them in these acts of hostility against thine Israel.

Submit himself with pieces of silver: this he adds as a limitation of his request; Rebuke them, O Lord, not to utter destruction, but only till they be humbled and submit themselves, and in token thereof bring pieces of silver for presents, as was foretold, Psalm 68:29. For submit himself, it is in the Hebrew cast himself down, or offer himself to be trod upon. But because this supplement may seem too large, and not necessary, the words are and may be rendered otherwise, that tread upon, or walk proudly in or with, fragments or pieces of silver, wherewith eminent captains used to adorn themselves and their very horses. And so this belongs to the bulls and calves, whose pride, and wealth, and power is described in this manner. Scatter thou, Heb. he hath scattered, i.e. he will certainly scatter, according to the prophetical style. So this may contain an answer, or his assurance of an answer, to his prayer: I prayed, Rebuke the company, &c., and God hath heard my prayer, and I doubt not will rebuke or scatter them.

That delight in war; that without any necessity or provocation, and merely out of a love to mischief and spoil, make war upon others, and upon us particularly. Now that thou hast given thy people rest, and settled the ark in its place, O Lord, rebuke all our malicious and bloody enemies, and give us assured peace, that we may worship the Lord without disturbance. And withal David may seem to utter this for his own vindication. It is true, O Lord, I have been a man of war, and therefore have lost the honour of building the temple, and am now forced to lodge the ark in a mean tabernacle, which I have erected for it; but this thou knowest, that I have not undertaken any of my wars out of wantonness, or ambition, or love to war and mischief, but only by constraint and necessity, for the just defence of myself and of thy people; and therefore do not lay my wars to my charge.

Princes shall come out of Egypt; Ethiopia shall soon stretch out her hands unto God.
Egypt, Ethiopia: he names only these, as the great and ancient enemies of God, and of his people, and as a most wicked, and idolatrous, and incorrigible sort of men; see Jeremiah 13:23 Amos 9:7; but by them he synecdochically understands all other nations and people of the like character.

Stretch out her hands unto God; either in way of humble supplication and submission, begging mercy of him; or to offer up the presents expressed, Psalm 68:29. But this prophecy, as also the next verse, evidently belongs to the times of the Messiah, when the Gentiles were tel be brought in to the knowledge and worship of the true God; with the thoughts and hopes whereof David oft comforteth himself in that confined and afflicted state of the church in his time.

Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord; Selah:
Not only Egypt and Ethiopia, but other kingdoms and nations also, who shall partake of the same grace with them.

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.
Upon the heavens; upon the highest heavens, as Deu 10:14, his truest and best sanctuary; by which expressions he prevents all mean and carnal conceptions of God, as if he were confined to the ark or tabernacle, and lifteth up the minds, both of Jews and Gentiles, to heaven, and representeth God as dwelling there in infinite glory and majesty, and from thence looking down upon all the inhabitants of the earth, and ruling them by his almighty power, and therefore most fit to be owned and received by all kings and kingdoms, as their Lord and Governor.

Of old, i.e. from the very beginning of the world; whereas the ark was only some hundred years old. Or,

which are everlasting; for this Hebrew word answers to olam, which looks not only backward to time past; but forward to the future, of which this word is by divers understood, Deu 33:15. This is also opposed to the condition of the ark, and tabernacle, and temple; all which, as David by the Spirit of prophecy well knew, would be abolished and dissolved.

A mighty voice; by which he understands, either,

1. The thunder, called God’s voice, Psalm 29:3, and elsewhere. Or rather,

2. His word, to wit, the gospel, published by Christ and by his apostles, assisted by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven; which might well be called God’s voice, and that a mighty voice, because it produced such great and wonderful effects, as are here above mentioned, in converting all the kings and kingdoms of the earth.

Ascribe ye strength unto God: his excellency is over Israel, and his strength is in the clouds.
Ascribe ye strength unto God; acknowledge that he is mighty and able to do whatsoever he pleaseth for his people, or against his and their enemies.

His excellency; his excellent power and goodness.

Is over Israel; dwells among them, and is employed for them, as occasion requires. He is indeed the universal Lord of the whole heaven and earth, but in a special and excellent manner he is the God of Israel.

In the clouds; or, in the heavens, He hath two dwellings and thrones, the one in his church and people, and the other in heaven. See Isaiah 57:15.

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.
Terrible; or, venerable; deservedly to be both reverenced and feared.

Holy places; or, sanctuaries. He useth the plural number; either,

1. Of the sanctuary in Zion, because the tabernacle and temple consisted of three parts; the court, the holy place, and the holy of holies. Or rather,

2. With respect to that twofold sanctuary here mentioned, one in Zion, and the other in heaven. And out of both these holy places God appeared, and put forth such acts of his power as might justly terrify his enemies.

God giveth strength and power unto his people; the strength which the kingdom of Israel now hath, is not to be ascribed to my valour or conduct, nor to the courage or numbers of the people, nor to that happy union now made, and established among all the tribes, but only to the might and grace of God.

Matthew Poole's Commentary

Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

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