Psalm 68:16
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.
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(16) Why leap ye?—The verb occurs only here, but is explained by Delitzsch, by comparison with an Arabic root, to express the attitude of a beast crouching down for a spring on its prey; a fine image: the jealous hills lying, like panthers, ready to spring on the passing Israelites. Or does the old feeling of jealousy of the tribes on the other side of Jordan still show itself lurking in this verse? Browning has an image some what similar:—

“Those two hills on the right

Crouched like two bulls.”

Others make the meaning simply “to look enviously on.” The older versions have caught the sense, “Why watch with suspicion?” We may translate the verse, Why, mountains of many peaks, glare ye at the mountain which God hath desired for a residence? Yea, Jehovah will dwell there for ever.

Psalm 68:16. Why leap ye, ye high hills — Why exult ye, or triumph, boasting of your height, and looking down 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 a prosopopœia. This is the hill, &c. — This hill, though despicable in your eyes, is precious and honourable in the eyes of God, and chosen by him for the place of his settled and perpetual residence. Dr. Chandler, however, gives a different sense to the word תרצדון, teratsdun, here rendered, leap ye; and translates the whole verse thus: Why look ye with envy, ye craggy hills? This is the mountain God hath desired to dwell in; yea, the Lord will dwell there for ever. Thus he considers the psalmist as poetically introducing Bashan, and the other little hills, as looking with envy on mount Zion, that she, above all the other mountains, should be favoured with the residence of the eternal God, and become the fixed seat of his ark. He tacitly bids them cease their envy; and by pointing to mount Zion, says, “See! there is the hill which God hath chosen, above all others, to inhabit! Yea, the Lord will dwell there for ever. His ark shall never be removed from it to any other dwelling whatsoever.” For, though the ark was removed from that particular spot, in which it was now to be placed, to the hill of Moriah, upon which the temple was to be built; yet it must be remembered that Zion and Moriah stood near each other, being both in Jerusalem, and were, probably, but two tops of one and the same hill. Here, excepting the seventy years of the Babylonish captivity, during which time Jerusalem lay desolate, God would dwell “till the old dispensation should be at an end; till the glory of the Lord should be revealed in human nature; till God should be manifest in the flesh; and the true tabernacle and temple should succeed the typical. After that, the privileges of Zion were transferred to the Christian Church; she became, and, while the world lasts, will continue to be, the hill in which God delighteth to dwell; she will therefore be justly entitled to the pre-eminence over all that may seem to be great and glorious in the world.” — Horne.

68:15-21 The ascension of Christ must here be meant, and thereto it is applied, Eph 4:8. He received as the purchase of his death, the gifts needful for the conversion of sinners, and the salvation of believers. These he continually bestows, even on rebellious men, that the Lord God might dwell among them, as their Friend and Father. He gave gifts to men. Having received power to give eternal life, the Lord Jesus bestows it on as many as were given him, Joh 17:2. Christ came to a rebellious world, not to condemn it, but that through him it might be saved. The glory of Zion's King is, that he is a Saviour and Benefactor to all his willing people, and a consuming fire to all that persist in rebellion against him. So many, so weighty are the gifts of God's bounty, that he may be truly said to load us with them. He will not put us off with present things for a portion, but will be the God of our salvation. The Lord Jesus has authority and power to rescue his people from the dominion of death, by taking away the sting of it from them when they die, and giving them complete victory over it when they rise again. The crown of the head, the chief pride and glory of the enemy, shall be smitten; Christ shall crush the head of the serpent.Why leap ye, ye high hills? - That is, with exultation; with pride; with conscious superiority. Why do you seem to regard yourselves as so superior to Mount Zion, in strength, in beauty, in grandeur? The Hebrew, however - רצד râtsad - rather means, "Why do ye watch insidiously? why do ye look askance at?" The word occurs only in this place. In Arabic it means to watch closely; to lie in wait for. This is the idea here. The mountains around Palestine - the mountains of the pagan world - the lofty hills - as if conscious of their grandeur, are represented as looking "askance," in their pride, at Mount Zion; as eyeing it with silent contempt, as if it were not worthy of notice; as if it were so insignificant that it had no claim to attention. The idea is not that of "leaping," as in our English Bible, or of "hopping," as in the version of the Episcopal Prayer Book, but that of a look of silent disdain, as if, by their side, Zion, so insignificant, was not worthy of regard. "Perhaps," by the high hills here, however, are disguisedly also represented the mighty powers of the pagan world, as if looking with contempt on the people of the land where Zion was the place of worship.

This is the hill which God desireth to dwell in - The hill which "he" has selected as his abode, and which "he" has honored above all the mountains of the earth, by his permanent residence there. As such, Zion has an honor above the loftiest hills and ranges of mountains in the earth.

Yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever - Permanently; he will make it his fixed habitation on earth. Not-withstanding the envy or the contempt of surrounding hills, he will make this his settled abode. He has chosen it; he delights in it; he will not forsake it for the mountains and hills that are in themselves more grand and lofty.

15, 16. Mountains are often symbols of nations (Ps 46:2; 65:6). That of Bashan, northeast of Palestine, denotes a heathen nation, which is described as a "hill of God," or a great hill. Such are represented as envious of the hill (Zion) on which God resides; 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.

Why leap ye, ye high hills?.... Meaning the kingdoms of this world that lift up themselves above, and look with contempt upon the interest, kingdom, and church of Christ; lie in wait for it, leap upon it, insult over it, and endeavour to crush and extirpate it; but all in vain; these high hills and mountains are nothing before Zerubbabel King of saints; his church is built on a rock, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it; the little stone cut out of the mountain without hands will become a great mountain, and fill the whole earth, and break in pieces and consume the kingdoms of it: the word in, the Arabic language, signifies "to lie in wait", as Jarchi from R. Moses Hadarsan observes; and to look out, and leap upon the prey; so R. Hai in Ben Melech says, it has the signification of looking, observing, hoping, or waiting, in the Arable language (k);

this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; as in Psalm 132:13; the Word of the Lord, as the Targum; the essential Word, the Messiah: his desire was towards his church and people, in eternity, in time, and now is; he has chosen and desired them for his habitation, and in the midst of them he delights to be, Revelation 1:13;

yea, the Lord will dwell in it for ever: he dwells in his church now by his gracious presence; he will dwell in the New Jerusalem church state personally for the space of a thousand years; and after that he will dwell with and among his people to all eternity; see Psalm 132:14.

(k) "Ratzad, insidiatus fuit, uti praedae leo", Golius, col. 991. Castel. col. 3633.

{n} 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.

(n) Why do you boast of your strength and beauty against this Mountain of God.

16. Why look ye enviously, ye high-peaked mountains,

At the mountain which God hath desired for his abode?

Yea, Jehovah will dwell in it for ever.

The grander mountains of Bashan, not Hermon only, but the rugged basaltic mountains which rise in precipitous peaks, suggesting ideas of majesty, antiquity, impregnability, are represented as looking enviously upon the insignificant mountain of Zion which God has chosen for His earthly dwelling-place. Sinai had been his temporary abode (Exodus 24:16); on Zion He will dwell for ever. Cp. 1 Kings 8:12-13. The choice of Zion is a parable of the method of God’s dealings with men. Cp. 1 Corinthians 1:26-29.

The A.V. why leap ye comes from the Targ., and assumes that the root rtsd, occurring here only, is synonymous with rqd, used in a similar apostrophe, Psalm 114:4; Psalm 114:6. But it is certainly to be explained from the meaning of the same root in Arabic.

Verse 16. - Why leap ye, ye high hills? rather, Why look ye askance, ye mountains of peaks? In jealousy at not being chosen. This is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; rather, on the mountain which God desireth to dwell in - a continuation of the preceding sentence. The mountain intended is, of course, Mount Zion, a comparatively low elevation. Yea, the Lord will dwell in it forever; i.e. make it his permanent, not merely his temporary, habitation, like Sinai. Psalm 68:16This victory of Israel over the kings of the Gentiles gives the poet the joyful assurance that Zion is the inaccessible dwelling-place of Elohim, the God of the heavenly hosts. The mention of Zalmon leads him to mention other mountains. He uses the mountains of Bashan as an emblem of the hostile powers east of Jordan. These stand over against the people of God, as the mighty mountains of Bashan rising in steep, only slightly flattened peaks, to little hill-like Zion. In the land on this side Jordan the limestone and chalk formation with intermingled strata of sandstone predominates; the mountains of Bashan, however, are throughout volcanic, consisting of slag, lava, and more particularly basalt (basanites), which has apparently taken its name from Bashan (Basan).

(Note: This is all the more probable as Semitism has no proper word for basalt; in Syria it is called hag'ar aswad, "black stone.")

As a basalt range the mountains of Bashan are conspicuous among other creations of God, and are therefore called "the mountain of Elohim:" the basalt rises in the form of a cone with the top lopped off, or even towers aloft like so many columns precipitous and rugged to sharp points; hence the mountains of Bashan are called הר גּבננּים, i.e., a mountain range (for הר, as is well known, signifies both the single eminence and the range of summits) of many peaks equals a many-peaked mountain; גּבנן is an adjective like רענן, אמלל. With this boldly formed mass of rock so gloomily majestic, giving the impression of antiquity and of invincibleness, when compared with the ranges on the other side of unstable porous limestone and softer formations, more particularly with Zion, it is an emblem of the world and its powers standing over against the people of God as a threatening and seemingly invincible colossus. The poet asks these mountains of Bashan "why," etc.? רצד is explained from the Arabic rṣd, which, in accordance with its root Arab. rṣ, signifies to cleave firmly to a place (firmiter inhaesit loco), properly used of a beast of prey couching down and lying in wait for prey, of a hunter on the catch, and of an enemy in ambush; hence then: to lie in wait for, lurk, ἐνεδρεύειν, craftily, insidiose (whence râṣid, a lier-in-wait, tarraṣṣud, an ambush), here: to regard enviously, invidiose. In Arabic, just as in this instance, it is construed as a direct transitive with an accusative of the object, whereas the original signification would lead one to look for a dative of the object (רצד ל), which does also really occur in the common Arabic. Olewejored is placed by גבננים, but what follows is not, after all, the answer: "the mountain - Elohim has chosen it as the seat of His throne," but ההר is the object of the interrogative clause: Quare indiviose observatis, montes cacuminosi, hunc montem (δεικτικῶς: that Zion yonder), quem, etc. (an attributive clause after the determinate substantive, as in Psalm 52:9; Psalm 89:50, and many other instances, contrary to the Arabic rule of style). Now for the first time, in Psalm 68:17, follows that which is boastfully and defiantly contrasted with the proud mountains: "Jahve will also dwell for ever;" not only that Elohim has chosen Zion as the seat of His throne, it will also continue to be the seat of His throne, Jahve will continue to dwell [there] for ever. Grace is superior to nature, and the church superior to the world, powerful and majestic as this may seem to be. Zion maintains its honour over against the mountains of Bashan.

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