Matthew Poole's Commentary
To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm for the sons of Korah. How amiable are thy tabernacles, O LORD of hosts!THE ARGUMENT.
The author of this Psalm seems to have been David, partly because it is ascribed to no other, and partly because it is most agreeable to his style and condition, and the occasion of it, his banishment or absence from the place of God’s worship; either,
1. In Saul’s time, which suits not with Psalm 84:7, for then the tabernacle was not in Zion. Or rather,
2. During Absalom’s rebellion.
The prophet, commending the sanctuary, Psalm 84:1, longeth for communion with it, Psalm 84:2,3; showeth the blessed state and condition of such as dwell therein, Psalm 84:4-7; prayeth to be restored unto it, Psalm 84:8,9; preferreth one day therein before a thousand elsewhere, Psalm 84:10. What the Lord is to them that trust in him, Psalm 84:11,12.
Thy tabernacle, called tabernacles, either
1. Because it consisted of several parts; or,
2. To note its excellency; as behemoth, or beasts, is put for one eminent beast, Job 40:15, and wisdoms for excellent wisdom, Proverbs 1:20.
My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.Fainteth, or, is consumed, with grief for want of them, and with vehement desire to enjoy them, and with the deferring and disappointment of his hopes. See Proverbs 13:12.
For the courts; to enter into the outward court with the people, and to see what is done by the priests in the inner court, and to join with them in their religious exercises.
My heart and my flesh crieth out with a doleful cry, of which this word is used also Lamentations 2:19, which elsewhere and commonly signifies a joyful shout. The sense is, my soul and body are pained; or the passion of my heart maketh my tongue cry out.
Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God.The sparrow hath found an house, i.e. a habitation, to wit, a nest, as it here followeth.
Even thine altar; or, nigh (as this Hebrew particle eth is elsewhere used, and as it is rendered by the Septuagint and the Chaldee, Judges 4:11) thine altar, Heb. altars, that of burnt-offerings, and the other of incense; at or near which these birds might well and truly be said to have their nests, because they were either in some part of the tabernacle or temple in which the altars were, or in some buildings belonging, or near at least, to it.
Blessed are they that dwell in thy house: they will be still praising thee. Selah.They that constantly or frequently resort to and abide in thy house; either the priests and Levites, who kept continual watch there; or other devout Jews who were there perpetually, as Anna, Luke 2:37. For they are continually employed in that blessed and glorious work of praising and serving thee in the place which thou hast appointed for that end.
Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them.Whose strength is in thee; who trusteth in thee as his only strength, and refuge, and portion. Or, who hath strength in (or rather for, as the Hebrew prefix beth is frequently used, as hath been noted again and again) thee, i.e. who hath (or who useth; for having is sometimes put for using; of which see Matthew 13:12 1 Corinthians 7:2) ability of body and mind for thee, and for thy service; or for that journey which here he seems to insinuate, and in the following words and verses he particularly describes. For it must be considered that all the males of Israel were obliged to come to the tabernacle or temple thrice in a year, Exodus 34:23,24, and that some of them lived at a great distance, and consequently were to take a long and troublesome journey, which also might at some times and places be accompanied with hazards and other inconveniences; and therefore such as wanted either courage or bodily strength might be discouraged or hindered from undertaking it, and from the enjoyment of God in his solemn and public worship; which though in some cases it might not be their sin, yet surely it was a great affliction and infelicity; and consequently it was a blessed thing to be freed from those impediments, as the psalmist here observes.
In whose heart are the ways of them, i.e. of these men; for though man be thee singular number, it is understood collectively of all that sort or company of men. But these words, of them, are not in the Hebrew, and, as some learned men have observed, seem to disturb or darken the sense. Others therefore seem to render the words better and more agreeably to the Hebrew text,
in whose heart are thy (which pronoun is oft understood)
ways, to wit, those ways which lead to thy house; or, the ways, so called emphatically, or by way of eminency, the ways of (or, to) Zion, as they are called Lamentations 1:4, as is evident from Psalm 84:7. So the meaning is, Blessed are they whose thoughts and affections are much and strongly fixed upon the highways, and their journeys to Zion, who have both strength of body, as is said in the former branch, and readiness of heart, as is here added, to go to Zion; which are the two qualifications requisite for their journey. Blessed are they whose hearts are set upon Zion and their journeys thither; that are continually, or from time to time, stirring up and bespeaking themselves and others, as they did, Jeremiah 31:6, Arise ye, let us go up to Zion unto the Lord our God. As when a man’s heart is knit in true friendship to one that lives at some distance from him, he is oft thinking with great desire and delight of the place where he dwelleth, and of the way leading to it.
Who passing through the valley of Baca make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.Passing; or, being used to pass; for he seems not to speak of one particular act, but of a common course or custom.
Baca; a place, so called, which some Jewish and other writers affirm to have been a very dry place, and therefore incommodious for travellers in those hot countries, and in hot seasons; which place may be here mentioned not exclusively to other ways and passages, for this highway being but one, and on one side of Jerusalem, could not be a general way for all the Israelites thither, but synecdochically for all places of like nature, which made their journey to Jerusalem unpleasant or inconvenient. But their zeal for God’s service did easily overcome this and other difficulties. Or, the valley of tears, as this valley might be called, for the trouble or vexation which travellers found there by reason of drought, or otherwise. A well, or wells, i.e. they dig divers little pits or wells in it for their relief. This trouble they willingly undertook rather than to neglect the opportunity of going up to Jerusalem at their solemn times. And possibly they did this, not only for themselves, but for the benefit of other travellers who came after them; whereby they showed both their piety and charity.
The rain also filleth the pools; God recompenseth their diligence in making pits, or little pools, or cisterns with his blessing, sending rain wherewith they may be filled, and the thirsty travellers refreshed. Possibly the words may be thus rendered, which is more agreeable to the order of the Hebrew text, yea, or also, (and so the Hebrew particle gam hath that emphasis which, as some learned interpreters observe, is not given to it in other translations; they do not only make little pits or wells, as it was now said, but also,) pools or cisterns (for this Hebrew word is by the learned rendered both ways) which (so the relative particle is to be understood, as it is very frequently in many texts of Scripture) the rain filleth, or may fill, i.e. which may receive and keep the rain which God sendeth for the refreshment of these travellers, whose great numbers made the provision of water more necessary. But it is not necessary to understand this and the foregoing clause of what these passengers did for their own use, as they travelled through this or such, like places; but it may be meant of what pious persons did before that time, who, having their hearts set upon God’s house, and the pathways leading to it, as was said, Psalm 84:5, and being desirous to advance the worship of God, and to encourage the people to come to Jerusalem, endeavoured to make those ways (some parts whereof were very incommodious) easy and convenient; and particularly, because those Eastern countries were hot and dry, and springs of water were scarce there, as we may learn from Genesis 26:15 Judges 1:15, and many other passages of sacred Scripture and other authors, which was a great annoyance to travellers, they made these pits and pools or cisterns in such places where they were most necessary, and through which great numbers of people passed in their journey to the house of God.
They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.They go from strength to strength; the farther they travel onward in that way, instead of being faint and weary, as travellers in such cases use to be, they grow stronger and stronger, being greatly refreshed with the comfortable end of their journey, expressed in the following words. Or, They go from company to company. For they used to travel in troops or companies for many reasons, and some companies were before others, accordingly as they were nearer to the place of worship, or more diligent or expeditious in their travel. And such as were most zealous would use their utmost endeavours to outstrip others, and to overtake one company of travellers after another, that so they might come with the first unto God in Zion.
Every one of them in Zion appeareth before God: this is here added as the blessed design and fruit of their long and tedious journey, as that which put life into them, and made them bear all inconveniences with great cheerfulness, they are all graciously admitted into the presence of God in Zion. But the words are and may be otherwise rendered, until every one of them appear before the God of gods in Zion; or, the God of gods shall be seen (or useth to appear, or manifest himself; for the future tense oft notes the continuance of the action) in Zion; which is mentioned in the close as the reason of that affection and industry which is described in the foregoing passages.
O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.O Lord God of hosts, who canst easily remove and subdue those enemies of mine who banish and keep me from the place of thy worship,
hear my prayer, in restoring me to thy house and service; which is my chief desire, Psalm 84:2,3.
Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of thine anointed.Look upon the face; do not turn away thine eyes from him, as men do from those whom they hate or despise, but cast a favourable eye towards him. By face he means either his person, the word face being oft redundant, as it is Genesis 43:3, or his state and condition.
Of thine anointed: either,
1. Of Christ, whose proper name is the Messiah, or the Anointed. So the meaning may be, Lord, I deserve not one good look from thee, because by my great wickedness I have procured thy just displeasure, and this banishment; but look upon thy Christ, whose coming and meritorious passion, though future to us, is present to thee, and for his sake look upon me. Or,
2. Of me, who, though a vile sinner, am thine anointed king, 2 Samuel 12:7 23:1.
For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.A thousand; understand elsewhere; which is necessary to complete the sense: or, in the tents of wickedness; which may be supplied out of the next clause. Such ellipses are usual in Scripture, as Psalm 91:7, at thy side, i.e. left side; Proverbs 19:1, &c.
Door-keeper; which was generally held a mean and contemptible office, and belonged to the common Levites, 1 Chronicles 9:19 26:1, and therefore might seem very dishonourable for David.
Than to dwell in the tents of wickedness; than to live in the greatest glory, and plenty, and pleasure; which is ordinarily the lot of wicked men, as David observed before, Psalm 17:14 73:6,7, and elsewhere.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.A sun, to enlighten, and quicken, and direct, and comfort all his people; whereas they that live without God in the world walk in darkness, and know not whither they go, as is said, John 12:35.
Shield, to save his people from all their enemies, and from those dreadful and deadly miseries which attend all other men.
Grace; his favour and friendship, which is better than life, Psalm 63:3, and all the blessed fruits of it.
Glory; not the vain-glory and splendour of this world, of which David would not have spoken so magnificently, because upon all occasions he expresseth a great contempt of those things; but the honour which comes from God here, and that eternal and ineffable glory laid up for God’s people in the future world.
No good thing; nothing that is truly good in itself, and which is good for them; for sometimes afflictions, which are evil in themselves, are good and necessary, and highly advantageous to good men; and the good things of this world would do them much hurt; which is verified by frequent experiments.
Them that walk uprightly; that worship God sincerely, and order their conversations aright; which clause David seems to me to add designedly to prevent or remove an objection against what he had now said, which might be taken from his own case, whereby it appeared that God was no such sun or shield to him, but exposed him to great and sore calamities; which being certain and evident, David here assigns the true reason of it, which was not from any defect in God’s goodness and sufficiency, but only from his own gross miscarriages, whereby he had clouded this sun, and cast away this shield, and forfeited these privileges by departing from his integrity.
O LORD of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.Who, though he be deprived of the opportunity of paying that outward worship to thee which is appropriated to thy house, yet giveth thee that inward worship which is more valuable in thy account, and placeth his chief trust, and hope, and happiness in thee alone.