Psalm 68:4
Sing to God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rides on the heavens by his name JAH, and rejoice before him.
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(4) Sing praises . . .—Better, play on the harp.

Extol him that rideth upon the heavens.—Rather, cast up a highway for him that rideth on the steppes. (Comp. Isaiah 40:3, of which this is apparently an echo.) The poet’s voice is the herald’s who precedes the army of God to order the removal of all obstructions, and the formation of cairns to mark the road. Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10, are passages alluding to the same custom.

The translation, “upon the heavens,” rests on a rabbinical interpretation of ‘arabôth.

By derivation it means “a dry sandy region,” a “steppe.” The singular of the noun forms with the article a proper name designating the Jordan valley. (In the poetical books, however, any wild tract of country is called ‘ArabahIsaiah 35:1; Isaiah 35:6.) The plural often designates particular parts of this region, as the plains of Moab or Jericho (2Kings 25:4-5). Such a restricted sense is quite in keeping with the allusions to the early history which make up so much of the psalm.

By his name JAH.—Better, his name is Jah. This abbreviated form of Jehovah is first found in Exodus 15:2. No doubt the verse is a fragment of a song as old as the Exodus.

It may be noticed here that the dependence of this psalm on older songs is nowhere more conspicuous than in the very various use of the Divine names, Elohim, Adonai, El, Shaddai, Jehovah, Jah.

Psalm 68:4. Sing unto God, &c. — “The prophet here exhorts the people of God to magnify with Psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, the eternal and incommunicable name of Him who was, and is, and is to come; who, deriving being from none, gives it to all, and who, as Redeemer of his people, is exalted above the heavens, and all the powers therein, above the gods of the nations; is acknowledged and glorified by saints and angels; feared and trembled at by ungodly men and evil spirits.” — Horne. Extol him, &c. — Hebrew, cast up, or prepare the way, for him that rideth through the deserts, or, that did ride in the desert, namely, manifested his presence between the cherubim upon the mercy-seat of the ark, when it was carried through the wilderness; or marched along with it in the cloudy pillar. Or, that now rideth, as in the desert, that is, whose ark, with which he is present, is now carried from place to place, as it was in the desert. This construction is most agreeable to the common usage of the original words here employed, סלו, sollu, rendered extol, properly meaning, to cast up, or prepare a way; and ערבות, gnaraboth, translated heavens, generally signifying the deserts, or plain fields. By his name Jah — Whereby he is known and distinguished from all false gods, Jah being, no doubt, an abbreviation of the name Jehovah, which the heathen pronounced Jao. And rejoice before him — Before the ark, with which he is present. Thus David is said to have danced before the Lord on this occasion.68:1-6 None ever hardened his heart against God, and prospered. God is the joy of his people, then let them rejoice when they come before him. He who derives his being from none, but gives being to all, is engaged by promise and covenant to bless his people. He is to be praised as a God of mercy and tender compassion. He ever careth for the afflicted and oppressed: repenting sinners, who are helpless and exposed more than any fatherless children, are admitted into his family, and share all their blessings.Sing unto God, sing praises to his name - That is, to him; the name being often put for the person himself. The repetition denotes intensity of desire; a wish that God might be praised with the highest praises.

Extol him - The word here rendered "extol" - סלל sâlal - means to lift up, to raise, to raise up, as into a heap or mound; and especially to cast up and prepare a way, or to make a way level before an army by casting up earth; that is, to prepare a way for an army. See the notes at Isaiah 40:3. Compare also Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10; Job 19:12; Job 30:12, Proverbs 15:19 (margin); Jeremiah 18:15. This is evidently the idea here. It is not to "extol" God in the sense of praising him; it is to prepare the way before him, as of one marching at the head of his armies, or as a leader of his hosts. The allusion is to God as passing before his people in the march to the promised land; and the call is to make ready the way before him - that is, to remove all obstructions out of his path and to make the road smooth and level.

That rideth - Rather," that marcheth." There is, indeed, the idea of riding, yet it is not that of "riding upon the heavens," which is the meaning, but of riding at the head of his hosts on their march.

Upon the heavens - The word used here - ערבה ‛ărābâh - never means either heaven, or the clouds. It properly denotes an arid tract, a sterile region, a desert; and then, a plain. It is rendered desert in Isaiah 35:1, Isaiah 35:6; Isaiah 40:3; Isaiah 41:19; Isaiah 51:3; Jeremiah 2:6; Jeremiah 17:6; Jeremiah 50:12; Ezekiel 47:8; and should have been so rendered here. So it is translated by DeWette, Prof. Alexander, and others. The Septuagint renders it, "Make way for him who is riding westward." So the Latin Vulgate. The Chaldee renders it, "Extol him who is seated upon the throne of his glory in the north heaven." The reference, doubtless, is to the passage through the desert over which the Hebrews wandered for forty years. The Hebrew word which is employed here is still applied by the Arabs to that region. The idea is that of Yahweh marching over those deserts at the head of his armies, and the call is to prepare a way for him on his march, compare Psalm 68:7-8.

By his name JAH - This refers to his riding or marching at the head of his forces through the desert, in the character described by that name - or, as יה Yâhh; that is, יהוה Yahweh. Yah (Jah) is an abbreviation of the word Yahweh (Jehovah), which was assumed by God as His special name, Exodus 6:3. The word Yahweh is usually rendered, in our version, Lord, printed in small capitals to denote that the original is יהוה Yahweh; the word itself is retained, however, in Exodus 6:3; Psalm 83:18; Isaiah 12:2 (see the notes); and Isaiah 26:4. The word "Jah" occurs in this place only, in our English translation. It is found in combination, or in certain formulas - as in the phrase Hallelujah, Psalm 104:35; Psalm 105:45; Psalm 106:1. The meaning here is, that God went thus before His people in the character of the true God, or as Yahweh.

And rejoice before him - Or, in His presence. Let there be joy when He thus manifests Himself as the true God. The presence of God is suited to give joy to all the worlds that He has made, or wherever He manifests Himself to His creatures.

4. extol him … heavens—literally, "cast up for Him who rideth in the deserts," or "wilderness" (compare Ps 68:7), alluding to the poetical representation of His leading His people in the wilderness as a conqueror, before whom a way is to be prepared, or "cast up" (compare Isa 40:3; 62:10).

by his name JAH—or, "Jehovah," of which it is a contraction (Ex 15:3; Isa 12:2) (Hebrew).

name—or, "perfections" (Ps 9:10; 20:1), which—

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. Sing unto God,.... Manifest in the flesh, risen from the dead, ascended on high, set down at the right hand of his divine Father; having exerted his great strength in their redemption; and therefore should sing the song of redeeming love, with grace and melody in their hearts, unto him;

sing praises to his name: to the honour of his name Jesus, a Saviour, because of the great work of salvation wrought out by him; give him all the praise and glory of it, which due unto his name;

extol him that rideth upon heavens: having ascended above them, and being higher than they, and so is exalted above all blessing and praise; and uses his power and greatness for the help of his people: see Deuteronomy 33:26. Some choose to render the words, "prepare the way" (q), as John the Baptist is said to do before him, Isaiah 11:3; "for him that rideth through the deserts", or "fields" (r); as he did through the fields of Judea on an ass; and through the nations of the world, in the ministry of the word, carried thither by his apostles; whereby places, comparable to deserts for their barrenness and unfruitfulness, became like the garden of the Lord: or rather, "that rideth in the west"; it being at the west end of the tabernacle and temple, where the cherubim were, on which Jehovah rode, they being his chariot;

by his name JAH; or Jehovah; which being a name incommunicable to creatures, and given to Christ, shows him to be the most High; a self-existent Being, the immutable and everlasting "I AM"; which is, and was, and is to come; from whom all creatures receive their being, and are continued in it; and who is also Jehovah our righteousness; and by, in, and because of this name, is he to be extolled and magnified;

and rejoice before him; See Gill on Psalm 68:3.

(q) "elevate viam lapidibus", Vatablus; "parata viam", Gejerus; "make an highway", Ainsworth. (r) "per deserta", Hieron. Theodoret. Bugenhagius, aliique in Michaelis; "in campestribus", Piscator, Cocceius; "in campis, vel per campos", Gussetius, p. 641. "in the deserts", Ainsworth.

Sing unto God, sing praises to his name: extol him that rideth upon the heavens by his name {c} JAH, and rejoice before him.

(c) Jah and Jehovah are the names of God, signifying his incomprehensible essence and majesty, so that by this it is declared that all idols are vanity and that the God of Israel is the only true God.

4. to his name] Praising Him for all that He has revealed Himself to be. Cp. Psalm 44:8; Exodus 3:15.

extol &c.] Render,

Cast up a high way for him that rideth through the deserts;

His name is JAH; and exult ye at his presence.

God’s advent is described under the figure of the progress of an Oriental monarch, for whose chariot pioneers prepare the road. In almost identical words the prophet calls to the exiles in Babylon (Isaiah 40:3),

“Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of the Lord,

Make straight in the desert a high way for our God:”

and in Isaiah 57:14; Isaiah 62:10 the same word cast up a high way is used of preparing for the return of Israel from Babylon. God’s people must prepare a way for Him by the removal of the obstacles of unbelief and faintheartedness and ungodliness which hinder Him from coming to deliver them.

The renderings of A.V. Extol … upon the heavens are derived from Jewish sources. The Targ. renders “Extol him that sitteth upon the throne of his glory in Arâbôth,” which is explained by comparison of Psalm 68:33 to mean the seventh or uppermost heaven. See Talm. Chagigah 12 b (Streane’s transl. p. 65). The curious addition as it were upon an horse in P.B.V. (Great Bible, but not Coverdale) appears to come from Münster’s Latin Version (1534–5) veluti equo insidet.

JAH is a shortened form of Jehovah (Jahveh), chosen here perhaps with allusion to its use in Exodus 15:2 (upon which are based Isaiah 12:2, Psalm 118:4), to recall the memories of the Exodus. It is peculiar to poetry, and outside the book of Psalms, where it occurs most frequently in the familiar Hallelujah = ‘Praise ye Jah,’ it is found only in Exodus 15:2; Exodus 17:16; Isaiah 12:2; Isaiah 26:4; Isaiah 38:11.

A curious mistake is to be found in the older editions of the Prayer Book, until about 1750:—“Praise him in his name: yea, and rejoice before him.” The Great Bible of 1539 has, “Prayse ye him in his name la and reioyse before hym”; but the edition of Nov. 1540 and others have: “Prayse hym in hys name: yea, and reioyce before hym.” It appears to be simply a typographical error.

4–6. God’s people are summoned to welcome Him and prepare the way for His coming: He is the champion of the weak and defenceless, the liberator of the captive.Verse 4. - Sing unto God, sing praises to his Name (comp. Psalm 64:4): extol him that rideth upon the heavens. This passage is now generally translated, Cast up a highway for him that rideth through the deserts (Hengstenberg, Kay, Dean Johnson, Professor Cheyne, Revised Version). The image is that of a king travelling through a waste, for whom a way was made beforehand (comp. Isaiah 40:3; Isaiah 49:11). By his name Jah; rather, Jah is his Name. "Jah" - the shortened form of "Jehovah" - occurs first in the Song of Moses (Exodus 15:2). It is repeated here in ver. 18, and recurs in Isaiah 26:4. Dr. Kay suggests that "it represents the concentration of God's redeeming power and love." And rejoice before him (comp. ver. 3). The joyous prospect of the conversion of heathen, expressed in the same words as in Psalm 67:5, here receives as its foundation a joyous event of the present time: the earth has just yielded its fruit (cf. Psalm 85:13), the fruit that had been sown and hoped for. This increase of corn and fruits is a blessing and an earnest of further blessing, by virtue of which (Jeremiah 33:9; Isaiah 60:3; cf. on the contrary Joel 2:17) it shall come to pass that all peoples unto the uttermost bounds of the earth shall reverence the God of Israel. For it is the way of God, that all the good that He manifests towards Israel shall be for the well-being of mankind.
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