Psalm 89:2
For I have said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: your faithfulness shall you establish in the very heavens.
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(2) Mercy . . . faithfulness.—These words, so often combined, express here, as commonly in the psalms, the attitude of the covenant God towards His people. The art of the poet is shown in this exordium. He strikes so strongly this note of the inviolability of the Divine promise only to make the deprecation of present neglect on God’s part presently more striking.

Shall be built up for ever—Better, is for ever being built up. Elsewhere figured as a “place of shelter,” a “tower of refuge,” God’s faithfulness is here presented as an edifice for ever rising on foundations laid in the heavens. (Comp. Psalm 119:89.) The heavens are at once the type of unchangeableness and of splendour and height. Mant’s paraphrase brings out the power of the verse:—

“For I have said, Thy mercies rise,

A deathless structure, to the skies;

The heavens were planted by Thy hand,

And as the heavens Thy truth shall stand.”

And Wordsworth has sung of Him:—

“Who fixed immovably the frame

Of the round world, and built by laws as strong

The solid refuge for distress,

The towers of righteousness.”

(Comp. Psalm 36:6.)

89:1-4 Though our expectations may be disappointed, yet God's promises are established in the heavens, in his eternal counsels; they are out of the reach of opposers in hell and earth. And faith in the boundless mercy and everlasting truth of God, may bring comfort even in the deepest trials.For I have said - The Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate render this, "Thou hast said," which is more in accordance with what the connection seems to demand; but the Hebrew will not admit of this construction. The true meaning seems to be, that the psalmist had said; that is, he had said in his mind; he had firmly believed; he had so received it as a truth that it might be spoken of as firmly settled, or as an indisputable reality. It was in his mind one of the things whose truthfulness did not admit of a doubt.

Mercy shall be built up for ever - The mercy referred to; the mercy manifested in the promise made to David. The idea is, that the promise would be fully carried out or verified. It would not be like the foundation of a building, which, after being laid, was abandoned; it would be as if the building, for which the foundation was designed, were carried up and completed. It would not be a forsaken, half-finished edifice, but an edifice fully erected.

Thy faithfulness shalt thou establish - In the matter referred to - the promise made to David.

In the very heavens - literally, "The heavens - thou wilt establish thy faithfulness in them." That is the heavens - the heavenly bodies - so regular, so fixed, so enduring, are looked upon as the emblem of stability. The psalmist brings them thus before his mind, and he says that God had, as it were, made his promise a part of the very heavens; he had given to his faithfulness a place among the most secure, and fixed, and settled objects in nature. The sun in its regular rising; the stars in their certain course; the constellations, the same from age to age, were an emblem of the stability and security of the promises of God. Compare Jeremiah 33:20-21.

2. I have said—expressed, as well as felt, my convictions (2Co 4:13). I have said within myself. I have been assured in my own mind.

Mercy shall be built up for ever: as thou hast laid a sure foundation of mercy to David’s family, by that everlasting covenant which thou hast made and established with it; so I concluded that thou wouldst carry on the same project of mercy towards it; that thou wouldst build it up, and not destroy it.

Thy faithfuless shalt thou establish in the very heavens: so the sense may be this. Thou sittest in the heavens, and there thou didst make this everlasting and unchangeable decree and covenant concerning David and his house, and from thence thou beholdest and orderest all the affairs of this lower world, and therefore, I doubt not, thou wilt so order these matters as to accomplish thine own counsel and word. But thee Hebrew words are by some others, and may very well be, translated thus, with (as the Hebrew prefix beth is oft rendered) the very heavens, i.e. as firmly and durably as the heavens themselves; as with the sun, in the Hebrew text, Psalm 72:5, is by most interpreters rendered, as long as the sun endureth, as our translation hath it. And so this phrase in the last branch of this verse answers to for ever in the former; as it is also in the foregoing verse, and so in Psalm 89:4; in both which verses for ever in the first clause is explained thus in the latter, to all generations. For I have said,.... That is, in his heart he had said, he had thought of it, was assured of it, strongly concluded it, from the Spirit and word of God; he believed it, and therefore he spoke it; having it from the Lord, it was all one as if he had spoke it: For I have {b} said, Mercy shall be built up for ever: thy faithfulness shalt thou {c} establish in the very heavens.

(b) As he who surely believed in heart.

(c) As your invisible heaven is not subject to any alteration and change: so shall the truth of your promise be unchangeable.

2. For I have said] ‘I have deliberately come to this conclusion.’ Thus emphatically the poet introduces the motive for his song. He is persuaded that one stone after another will continue to be laid in the building of God’s lovingkindness till it reaches to heaven itself, even though it may now seem to be a deserted ruin. Though for rhythmical reasons the verse is divided into two lines, its sense must be taken as a whole: ‘Lovingkindness and faithfulness shall be built up and established for ever in the heavens.’

For the metaphorical use of ‘build’ cp. Job 22:23; Jeremiah 12:16; Malachi 3:15. The choice of the word, as well as of ‘establish’ in the next line, is suggested by their use in Psalm 89:4.

in the very heavens] High as the heavens (Psalm 36:5); or in the region where it is beyond the reach of earthly vicissitudes (Psalm 119:89-90).

Many editors would read, Thou hast said … My faithfulness shall be established &c., a change partly supported by the LXX and Jer. But the structure of the Psalm is against the change, for the verses run in pairs, and Psalm 89:2 is clearly to be connected with Psalm 89:1 : moreover the emphatic ‘I have said’ is by no means superfluous.Verse 2. - For I have said, Mercy shall be built up forever. A time shall come when, out of whatever ruins, mercy shall be "built up" - raised from the ground like a solid edifice, and, when once raised up, shall stand firm forever. Thy faithfulness shalt thou establish in the very heavens. At the same time, God's faithfulness to his promises will be established "in the very heavens," i.e. conspicuously (see ver. 37). He who complains thus without knowing any comfort, and yet without despairing, gathers himself up afresh for prayer. With ואני he contrasts himself with the dead who are separated from God's manifestation of love. Being still in life, although under wrath that apparently has no end, he strains every nerve to struggle through in prayer until he shall reach God's love. His complaints are petitions, for they are complaints that are poured forth before God. The destiny under which for a long time he has been more like one dying than living, reaches back even into his youth. מנּער (since נער is everywhere undeclined) is equivalent to מנּערי. The ἐξηπορήθην of the lxx is the right indicator for the understanding of the ἅπαξ λ.ε.γ. אפוּנה. Aben-Ezra and Kimchi derive it from פּן, like עלה from על,

(Note: The derivation is not contrary to the genius of the language; the supplementing productive force of the language displayed in the liturgical poetry of the synagogue, also changes particles into verbs: vid., Zunz, Die synagogaie Poesie des Mittelalters, S. 421.)

and assign to it the signification of dubitare. But it may be more safely explained after the Arabic words Arab. afana, afina, ma'fûn (root 'f, to urge forwards, push), in which the fundamental notion of driving back, narrowing and exhausting, is transferred to a weakening or weakness of the intellect. We might also compare פּנה, Arab. faniya, "to disappear, vanish, pass away;" but the ἐξηπορήθην of the lxx favours the kinship with that Arab. afina, infirma mente et consilii inops fuit,

(Note: Abulwald also explains אפוּנה after the Arabic, but in a way that cannot be accepted, viz., "for a long time onwards," from the Arabic iffân (ibbân, iff, afaf, ifâf, taiffah), time, period - time conceived of in the onward rush, the constant succession of its moments.)

which has been already compared by Castell. The aorist of the lxx, however, is just as erroneous in this instance as in Psalm 42:5; Psalm 55:3; Psalm 57:5. In all these instances the cohortative denotes the inward result following from an outward compulsion, as they say in Hebrew: I lay hold of trembling (Isaiah 13:8; Job 18:20; Job 21:6) or joy (Isaiah 35:10; Isaiah 51:11), when the force of circumstances drive one into such states of mind. Labouring under the burden of divine dispensations of a terrifying character, he finds himself in a state of mental weakness and exhaustion, or of insensible (senseless) fright; over him as their destined goal before many others go God's burnings of wrath (plur. only in this instance), His terrible decrees (vid., concerning בעת on Psalm 18:5) have almost annihilated him. צמּתתוּני is not an impossible form (Olshausen, 251, a), but an intensive form of צמּתוּ, the last part of the already inflected verb being repeated, as in עהבוּ הבוּ, Hosea 4:18 (cf. in the department of the noun, פּיפיּות, edge-edges equals many edges, Psalm 149:6), perhaps under the influence of the derivative.

(Note: Heidenheim interprets: Thy terrors are become to me as צמתת (Leviticus 25:23), i.e., inalienably my own.)

The corrections צמתּתני (from צמתת) or צמּתתני (from צמּת) are simple enough; but it is more prudent to let tradition judge of that which is possible in the usage of the language. In Psalm 88:18 the burnings become floods; the wrath of God can be compared to every destroying and overthrowing element. The billows threaten to swallow him up, without any helping hand being stretched out to him on the part of any of his lovers and friends. In v. 19a to be now explained according to Job 16:14, viz., My familiar friends are gloomy darkness; i.e., instead of those who were hitherto my familiars (Job 19:14), darkness is become my familiar friend? One would have thought that it ought then to have been מידּעי (Schnurrer), or, according to Proverbs 7:4, מודעי, and that, in connection with this sense of the noun, מחשׁך ought as subject to have the precedence, that consequently מידּעי is subject and מחשׁך predicate: my familiar friends have lost themselves in darkness, are become absolutely invisible (Hitzig at last). But the regular position of the words is kept to if it is interpreted: my familiar friends are reduced to gloomy darkness as my familiar friend, and the plural is justified by Job 19:14 : Mother and sister (do I call) the worm. With this complaint the harp falls from the poet's hands. He is silent, and waits on God, that He may solve this riddle of affliction. From the Book of Job we might infer that He also actually appeared to him. He is more faithful than men. No soul that in the midst of wrath lays hold upon His love, whether with a firm or with a trembling hand, is suffered to be lost.

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