Psalm 89:37
It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah.
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(37) And as a faithful witness in heaven.—Rather, and there is a faithful witness in heaven, which the parallelism shows to be the moon, just mentioned. The moon (see Psalm 81:3) was to the Jews—as to the ancients generally—the “arbiter of festivals,” and the festivals were signs of the covenant, consequently that luminary might well be called “a witness in heaven.”

89:19-37 The Lord anointed David with the holy oil, not only as an emblem of the graces and gifts he received, but as a type of Christ, the King Priest, and Prophet, anointed with the Holy Ghost without measure. David after his anointing, was persecuted, but none could gain advantage against him. Yet all this was a faint shadow of the Redeemer's sufferings, deliverance, glory, and authority, in whom alone these predictions and promises are fully brought to pass. He is the mighty God. This is the Redeemer appointed for us, who alone is able to complete the work of our salvation. Let us seek an interest in these blessings, by the witness of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. As the Lord corrected the posterity of David for their transgressions, so his people shall be corrected for their sins. Yet it is but a rod, not a sword; it is to correct, not to destroy. It is a rod in the hand of God, who is wise, and knows what he does; gracious, and will do what is best. It is a rod which they shall never feel, but when there is need. As the sun and moon remain in heaven, whatever changes there seem to be in them, and again appear in due season; so the covenant of grace made in Christ, whatever alteration seems to come to it, should not be questioned.It shall be established forever as the moon - As long as the moon shall endure. The heavenly bodies are the most permanent objects that we know of; and they, therefore, became the emblems of stability and perpetuity. Compare the notes at Psalm 72:7.

And as a faithful witness in heaven - As the witness in heaven, or in the sky, is sure. The reference is to the moon, regarded as a witness for God. What is said here of the moon as an index of his faithfulness, might be said also of the sun and the stars; but the beauty of the image is increased by the attention being fixed to a single object. As the moon is fixed, regular, enduring - so are the promises and purposes of God. Such were the promises made to David; such was the oath which had been taken by God; such the covenant which he had made. The psalmist now proceeds Psalm 89:38-45 to show that this oath and these promises seemed to be disregarded; that there were things occurring which appeared as if God had forgotten them; that there was not that manifest prosperity and favor which was implied in the promise; but that a series of calamities had occurred which it was difficult to reconcile with these solemn pledges. On the ground of this he prays Psalm 89:46-52 that God would return, and would remember his covenant, and would bless David and his people.

37. It shall … moon … heaven—literally, "As the moon, and the witness in the sky is sure, that is, the moon." Whereby he understands, either, first, The moon, last mentioned, to which this clause may be added rather than to the sun, to imply that as the moon, though subject to eclipses and frequent and manifold changes, yet doth constantly and perpetually remain in heaven, as a witness of my covenant of the night, as it is called, Jeremiah 33:20; so shall the house and kingdom of David continue for ever, not withstanding all the changes and calamities which it may undergo. Or, secondly, The rainbow, which though in itself it be unstable and transient, and doth but seldom appear, which learned men object against this opinion, yet in Scripture is mentioned as God’s faithful and perpetual witness, being called a token of God’s everlasting covenant between God and every living creature for perpetual generations, Genesis 9:12,16. And although it do not always appear to us, neither do the sun or moon do so, yet its appearances are doubtless very frequent in one or other part of the world, and will be repeated from time to time to the end of the world. Add to this, that the word here rendered heaven, may as well be rendered the cloud or clouds, as it is used Deu 33:26 Job 35:5 36:28 Psalm 18:12 77:17 78:23 Proverbs 3:20 Isaiah 45:8. And so the place being thus translated, and as the faithful witness in the cloud or clouds, doth plainly point us to the rainbow.

It shall be established for ever as the moon,.... Either Christ's seed, or throne, which comes to much the same sense; for by both are meant his church and people, his kingdom and interest in the world; the moon is as perpetual as the sun, and is used as elsewhere to signify the continuance of the people, church, and interest of Christ, Psalm 72:5, for though the moon has its spots, and is changeable, sometimes in the full, and sometimes in the decline, yet always is, and always continues, and ever will; and so though the people of God have their spots and imperfections, and are sometimes on the decline in the frames and dispositions of their minds, in the exercise of grace, in their spirituality, liveliness, and zeal, and in their walk and conversation in the church and world; yet they shall abide and persevere to the end; and though the church may be like the moon in the wane, be declining as to numbers, gifts, and graces, yet it shall continue and be established; it is sometimes indeed in a fluctuating state, and is not always in the same place, but is removed from one country to another; yet it always is somewhere, even though in the wilderness, and ere long will be established on the top of the mountains, and be no more a tabernacle that shall be taken down; see Psalm 48:8.

and as a faithful witness in heaven: or "in the sky or cloud" (b); some understand this of the moon, others of both sun and moon; but it seems best to interpret it of something distinct from either, even of the rainbow, which though it does not always appear in the clouds, yet it has appeared at times, and does and will unto the end of the world; and be a faithful and an everlasting token and witness of the covenant of God made with all creatures, that he will no more destroy the world by a flood, Genesis 9:12, and is an emblem of the covenant of grace, and of the continuance, perpetuity, and immutability of it; see Isaiah 54:9.

Selah. See Gill on Psalm 3:2.

(b) "in aethere", Montanus, Tigurine version, Vatablus; "in superiore nube", Junius & Tremellius; "in nubibus", Gejerus.

It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful {c} witness in heaven. Selah.

(c) As long as the Sun and Moon endure, they will be witnesses to me of this promise.

37. Construction and meaning are doubtful. (1) The original passage in 2 Samuel 7:16 is in favour of making his throne the subject to shall be established, and against the marginal alternatives of R.V., As the moon which is established for ever, and as the faithful witness in the sky: or, and is a faithful witness in the sky.

(2) The A.V., with which substantially agrees the R.V., And (as) the faithful witness in the sky, raises the question what is meant by ‘the faithful witness in the sky.’ Is it the sun, or the moon, or the rainbow? Or is it the fixed laws of nature which are appealed to in Jeremiah 31:35-36; Jeremiah 33:20 f., 25f., as a symbol of the permanence of God’s covenant with Israel and with David? This last explanation is the best, but it seems somewhat far-fetched; and the omission of the particle of comparison as points (3) to another rendering: And the witness in the sky is faithful. The witness is God Himself, Who thus confirms His promise with a final attestation. Cp. Jeremiah 42:5, “Jehovah be a true and faithful witness against us”: Job 16:19, “my witness is in heaven.”

Verse 37. - It shall be established forever as the moon (comp. Psalm 72:7). And as a faithful witness in heaven. Some understand this expression of the moon; but, as Professor Cheyne comments, "Who could witness (or declare) that such great things were true but Jehovah?" (So too Delitzsch, Kay, and Canon Cook.) If this be regarded as the true meaning, it will be better to translate, "the true witness." Job's citation of God as his witness (Job 16:19) is scarcely parallel. Psalm 89:37Now follows the paraphrase of 2 Samuel 7:14, that the faithlessness of David's line in relation to the covenant shall not interfere with (annul) the faithfulness of God - a thought with which one might very naturally console one's self in the reign of Rehoboam. Because God has placed the house of David in a filial relationship to Himself, He will chastise the apostate members as a father chastises his son; cf. Proverbs 23:13. In 1 Chronicles 17:13 the chronicler omits the words of 2 Samuel 7:14 which there provide against perverted action (העוות) on the part of the seed of David; our Psalm proves their originality. But even if, as history shows, this means of chastisement should be ineffectual in the case of individuals, the house of David as such will nevertheless remain ever in a state of favour with Him. In Psalm 89:34 חסדּי לא־אפיר מעמּו corresponds to וחסדּי־לא־יסוּר ממּנּוּ in 2 Samuel 7:15 (lxx, Targum): the fut. Hiph. of פרר is otherwise always אפר; the conjecture אסיר is therefore natural, yet even the lxx translators (ου ̓ μὴ διασκεδάσω) had אפיר before them. שׁקּר בּ as in Psalm 44:18. The covenant with David is sacred with God: He will not profane it (חלּל, to loose the bonds of sanctity). He will fulfil what has gone forth from His lips, i.e., His vow, according to Deuteronomy 23:24 [23], cf. Numbers 30:3 [2]. One thing hath He sworn to David; not: once equals once for all (lxx), for what is introduced by Psalm 89:36 (cf. Psalm 27:4) and follows in Psalm 89:37, Psalm 89:38, is in reality one thing (as in Psalm 62:12, two). He hath sworn it per sanctitatem suam. Thus, and not in sanctuario meo, בּקדשׁי in this passage and Amos 4:2 (cf. on Psalm 60:8) is to be rendered, for elsewhere the expression is בּי, Genesis 22:16; Isaiah 45:23, or בּנפשׁו, Amos 6:8; Jeremiah 51:14, or בּשׁמי, Jeremiah 44:26, or בּימינו, Isaiah 62:8. It is true we do not read any set form of oath in 2 Samuel 7, 1 Chronicles 17, but just as Isaiah, Isaiah 54:9, takes the divine promise in Genesis 8:21 as an oath, so the promise so earnestly and most solemnly pledged to David may be accounted by Psalm-poesy (here and in Psalm 132:11), which reproduces the historical matter of fact, as a promise attested with an oath. With אם in Psalm 89:36 God asserts that He will not disappoint David in reference to this one thing, viz., the perpetuity of his throne. This shall stand for ever as the sun and moon; for these, though they may one day undergo a change (Psalm 102:27), shall nevertheless never be destroyed. In the presence of 2 Samuel 7:16 it looks as if Psalm 89:38 ought to be rendered: and as the witness in the clouds shall it (David's throne) be faithful (perpetual). By the witness in the clouds one would then have to understand the rainbow as the celestial memorial and sign of an everlasting covenant. Thus Luther, Geier, Schmid, and others. But neither this rendering, nor the more natural one, "and as the perpetual, faithful witness in the clouds," is admissible in connection with the absence of the כּ of comparison. Accordingly Hengstenberg, following the example of Jewish expositors, renders: "and the witness in the clouds is perpetual," viz., the moon, so that the continuance of the Davidic line would be associated with the moon, just as the continuance of the condemned earth is with the rainbow. But in what sense would the moon have the name, without example elsewhere, of witness? Just as the Book of Job was the key to the conclusion of Psalm 88, so it is the key to this ambiguous verse of the Psalm before us. It has to be explained according to Job 16:19, where Job says: "Behold in heaven is my witness, and my surety in the heights." Jahve, the אל נאמן (Deuteronomy 7:9), seals His sworn promise with the words, "and the witness in the sky (ethereal heights) is faithful" (cf. concerning this Waw in connection with asseverations, Ew. 340, c). Hengstenberg's objection, that Jahve cannot be called His own witness, is disposed of by the fact that עד frequently signifies the person who testifies anything concerning himself; in this sense, in fact, the whole Tra is called עדוּת ה (the testimony of Jahve).
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