Psalm 9:20
Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah.
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(20) Put them in fear.—There is a difficulty about the reading. The LXX., Vulg., and Syriac read “place a lawgiver or master over them.” So Syriac, “law.” Hitzig conjectures, “set a guard upon them.” With the present reading apparently the rendering should be, put a terror upon them: i.e., “give such a proof of power as to trouble and subdue them.”

9:11-20 Those who believe that God is greatly to be praised, not only desire to praise him better themselves, but desire that others may join with them. There is a day coming, when it will appear that he has not forgotten the cry of the humble; neither the cry of their blood, or the cry of their prayers. We are never brought so low, so near to death, but God can raise us up. If he has saved us from spiritual and eternal death, we may thence hope, that in all our distresses he will be a very present help to us. The overruling providence of God frequently so orders it, that persecutors and oppressors are brought to ruin by the projects they formed to destroy the people of God. Drunkards kill themselves; prodigals beggar themselves; the contentious bring mischief upon themselves: thus men's sins may be read in their punishment, and it becomes plain to all, that the destruction of sinners is of themselves. All wickedness came originally with the wicked one from hell; and those who continue in sin, must go to that place of torment. The true state, both of nations and of individuals, may be correctly estimated by this one rule, whether in their doings they remember or forget God. David encourages the people of God to wait for his salvation, though it should be long deferred. God will make it appear that he never did forget them: it is not possible he should. Strange that man, dust in his and about him, should yet need some sharp affliction, some severe visitation from God, to bring him to the knowledge of himself, and make him feel who and what he is.Put them in fear, O Lord - From this it is evident that the enemies of the psalmist were bold, daring, confident in their own strength, and in the belief that they would succeed. He prays, therefore, that these bold and daring invaders of the rights of others might be made to stand in awe, and to tremble before the great and terrible majesty of God; that they might thus have just views of themselves, and see how weak and feeble they were as compared with Him.

That the nations may know - The nations particularly referred to in this psalm as arrayed against the writer.

Themselves to be but men - That they may see themselves as they are - poor, feeble creatures; as nothing when compared with God; that instead of their pride and self-confidence, their belief that they can accomplish any purpose that they choose, they may see that they are not like God, but that they are frail and feeble mortals. The psalmist seems to have supposed that if they understood this, they would be humbled and would desist from their purposes; and he therefore prays that God would interpose and show them precisely what they were. If men understood this, they would not dare to arrayy themselves against their Maker.

20. By their effectual subjection, make them to realize their frail nature (Ps 8:4), and deter them from all conceit and future rebellion. Subdue their proud and insolent spirits, and strike them with terror, or with some terrible judgment. But men, Heb. weak, and miserable, and mortal men, and therefore altogether unable to oppose the omnipotent and eternal God. This he saith, because wicked men, when they are advanced to great power and majesty, are very prone to forget their own frailty, and to carry themselves as if they were gods. See Isaiah 31:3 Ezekiel 30:7,8 Da 5:21. Put them in fear, O Lord,.... Who are, a bold, impudent, fearless generation of men; who, like the unjust judge, neither fear God nor regard men, therefore the psalmist prays that God would inject fear into them, who only can do it; and this will be done at Babylon's destruction, when the antichristian kings, merchants, and seafaring men, will stand afar off for fear of her torment, Revelation 18:10;

that the nations may know themselves to be but men; and not God, and have no power against him; see Isaiah 31:3; the sense is, that the antichristian nations, who oppose themselves to Christ and his people, may know that they are but frail, mortal, miserable men, as the word (q) signifies; and that he who is at the head of them, the man of sin, is no other, though he exalts himself above all that is called God, 2 Thessalonians 2:4; or these words are a prayer for the conversion of many among the nations, and may be rendered, "put, O Lord, fear in them" (r); that is, the true grace of fear, "that the nations may know" themselves, their sin and guilt and danger, and know God in Christ, and Christ, and the way of salvation by him; for at the word "know" should be a stop, concluding a proposition, since the accent "athnach" is there; and then follows another, "they are men. Selah": destitute of the fear and grace of God, are capable of it, but cannot give it to themselves.

Selah; on this word; see Gill on Psalm 3:2.

(q) "mortales esse", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Gejerus; "homines miseri", Cocceius, Michaelis; "sorry men", Ainsworth. (r) "pone timorem eis", so Junius and Tremellius, Piscator, Pagninus, Montanus, Cocceius, Ainsworth.

Put them in fear, O LORD: that the nations may know themselves to be but {k} men. Selah.

(k) Which they cannot learn without the fear of your judgment.

20. Put them in fear] Lit. set terror for them: some awe-inspiring exhibition of power, such as were the wonders of the Exodus. (Deuteronomy 4:34; Deuteronomy 26:8; Deuteronomy 34:12; Jeremiah 32:21.) The rendering of LXX, Vulg., Syr., appoint a lawgiver over them, (reading môreh for môrah) is certainly wrong, though it is adopted by Luther and by some modern critics.Verse 20. - Put them in fear, O Lord; literally, set fear to them; i.e. "make them afraid," either by striking a panic terror into them, as into the Syrians when they had brought Samaria to the last gasp (2 Kings 7:6, 7), or by causing them calmly to review the situation, and to see how dangerous it was to assail God's people (2 Kings 6:23). That the nations may know themselves to be but men. May recognize, i.e., their weakness; may remember that they are enosh - mere weak, frail, sickly, perishing mortals. Selah. Here this word occurs for the second time at the end of a psalm (see above, Psalm 3:8) - a position which militates against the idea of its signifying "a pause," since there must always have been a pause at the end of every psalm.

(Heb.: 9:14-15) To take this strophe as a prayer of David at the present time, is to destroy the unity and hymnic character of the Psalm, since that which is here put in the form of prayer appears in what has preceded and in what follows as something he has experienced. The strophe represents to us how the עניּים (ענוים) cried to Jahve before the deliverance now experienced. Instead of the form חנּני used everywhere else the resolved, and as it were tremulous, form חננני is designedly chosen. According to a better attested reading it is חננני (Pathach with Gaja in the first syllable), which is regarded by Chajug and others as the imper. Piel, but more correctly (Ewald 251, c) as the imper. Kal from the intransitive imperative form חנן. מרוממי is the vocative, cf. Psalm 17:7. The gates of death, i.e., the gates of the realm of the dead (שׁאול, Isaiah 38:10), are in the deep; he who is in peril of death is said to have sunk down to them; he who is snatched from peril of death is lifted up, so that they do not swallow him up and close behind him. The church, already very near to the gates of death, cried to the God who can snatch from death. Its final purpose in connection with such deliverance is that it may glorify God. The form תּהלּתיך is sing. with a plural suffix just like שׂנאתיך Ezekiel 35:11, אשׁמתימו Ezra 9:15. The punctuists maintained (as עצתיך in Isaiah 47:13 shows) the possibility of a plural inflexion of a collective singular. In antithesis to the gates of death, which are represented as beneath the ground, we have the gates of the daughter of Zion standing on high. ציּון is gen. appositionis (Ges. 116, 5). The daughter of Zion (Zion itself) is the church in its childlike, bride-like, and conjugal relation to Jahve. In the gates of the daughter of Zion is equivalent to: before all God's people, Psalm 116:14. For the gates are the places of public resort and business. At this period the Old Testament mind knew nothing of the songs of praise of the redeemed in heaven. On the other side of the grave is the silence of death. If the church desires to praise God, it must continue in life and not die.
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