Psalm 96:5
For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD made the heavens.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(5) Idols.—Literally, nothings; Heb., elîlîm, with a play on the word el, God. This plainly shows that by Gods, in Psalm 96:4, the heathen deities, and not angels, are meant. (See Note, Psalm 95:3.) The LXX. sometimes renders the Hebrew word “idols,” sometimes “vanities,” but here “demons.” Symmachus “nonexistences.”

But the Lord made the heavens.Nothings could not do that, but only Jehovah.

96:1-9 When Christ finished his work on earth, and was received into his glory in heaven, the church began to sing a new song unto him, and to bless his name. His apostles and evangelists showed forth his salvation among the heathen, his wonders among all people. All the earth is here summoned to worship the Lord. We must worship him in the beauty of holiness, as God in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself. Glorious things are said of him, both as motives to praise and matter of praise.For all the gods of the nations are idols - All the gods worshipped by the people of other lands are mere "idols." None of them can claim to have a real existence as gods. The word here rendered "idols" is translated by the Septuagint, δαιμόνια daimonia, "demons." So the Latin Vulgate "daemonia." The Hebrew word - אליל 'ĕlı̂yl - means properly "of nothing, nought, empty, vain." See Job 13:4. The meaning here is, that they were mere nothings; they had no real existence; they were the creations of the imagination; they could not in any sense be regarded as what it was pretended they were; they had no claim to reverence and worship as gods. Of most of them it was a fact that they had no existence at all, but were mere creatures of fancy. Of those that did really exist, as the sun, moon, stars, animals, or the spirits of departed people, though it was true that they had an actual existence, yet it was also true that they had no existence "as gods," or as entitled to worship; and hence, it was also true that the worship offered to them was as vain as that which was offered to mere beings of the imagination. This verse is extracted literally from 1 Chronicles 16:26. The Hebrew is the same.

But the Lord made the heavens - Yahweh created the heavenly hosts, and therefore he is the true God, and is entitled to worship. The power of "creation" - of causing anything to exist where there was nothing before - must pertain to God alone, and is the highest act of Divinity. No pretended pagan god has that power; no man has that power. The true God has reserved the exercise of that power to himself, and has never, in any instance, imparted it to a created being.

4, 5. For He is not a local God, but of universal agency, while idols are nothing. Idols; or, nothings, as they are called, 1 Corinthians 8:4 10:19; or, vain things, as the word signifies, and is translated by others. The sense is, Though they have usurped the name and place of the Divine Majesty, yet they have nothing of his nature or power in them. For all the gods of the nations are idols,.... Or are "nothings" (o), nonentities; such as have not, and never had, any being, at least many of them, but in the fancies of men; and all of them such as have no divinity in them;

an idol is nothing in the world, 1 Corinthians 8:4,

but the Lord made the heavens; and all the hosts of them, the sun, moon, and stars; these are the curious workmanship of his fingers, and which declare his glory, and show him to be truly and properly God, who is to be feared and worshipped; see Hebrews 1:10.

(o) "nihila", Tigurine version, Cocceius, Michaelis.

For all the gods of the nations are idols: but the LORD {c} made the heavens.

(c) Then the idols or whatever did not make the heavens, are not God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
5. For all the gods of the peoples are things of nought [or, idols]; powerless, nay, non-existent. Cp. the argument of Isaiah 40:18 ff; Isaiah 44:9 ff.

but the Lord &c.] The appeal to the works of creation as a proof of Jehovah’s power occurs frequently in Isaiah 40-66. See Isaiah 40:22; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:24.Verse 5. - For all the gods of the nations are idols; rather, vanities, or nothings. In the original there is a play upon the words - the elohim of the nations are mere elilim. Elilim is a favourite designation of the heathen gods in Isaiah. Compare the statement of St. Paul, "We know that an idol is nothing in the world" (1 Corinthians 8:4). But the Lord made the heavens. That which is nothing can do nothing, can make nothing. How far superior is Jehovah, who "made the heavens" (comp. Genesis 1:1; Isaiah 42:5; Isaiah 44:24)! The second decastich begins in the midst of the Masoretic Psalm 95:7. Up to this point the church stirs itself up to a worshipping appearing before its God; now the voice of God (Hebrews 4:7), earnestly admonishing, meets it, resounding from out of the sanctuary. Since שׁמע בּ signifies not merely to hear, but to hear obediently, Psalm 95:7 cannot be a conditioning protasis to what follows. Hengstenberg wishes to supply the apodosis: "then will He bless you, His people;" but אם in other instances too (Psalm 81:9; Psalm 139:19; Proverbs 24:11), like לוּ, has an optative signification, which it certainly has gained by a suppression of a promissory apodosis, but yet without the genius of the language having any such in mind in every instance. The word היּום placed first gives prominence to the present, in which this call to obedience goes forth, as a decisive turning-point. The divine voice warningly calls to mind the self-hardening of Israel, which came to light at Merמbah, on the day of Massah. What is referred to, as also in Psalm 81:8, is the tempting of God in the second year of the Exodus on account of the failing of water in the neighbourhood of Horeb, at the place which is for this reason called Massah u-Merı̂bah (Exodus 17:1-7); from which is to be distinguished the tempting of God in the fortieth year of the Exodus at Merı̂bah, viz., at the waters of contention near Kadesh (written fully Mê-Merı̂bah Kadesh, or more briefly Mê-Merı̂bah), Numbers 20:2-13 (cf. on Psalm 78:20). Strictly כמריבה signifies nothing but instar Meribae, as in Psalm 83:10 instar Midianitarum; but according to the sense, כּ is equivalent to כּעל. Psalm 106:32, just as כּיום is equivalent to כּביום. On אשׁר, quum, cf. Deuteronomy 11:6. The meaning of גּם־ראוּ פעלי is not they also (גם as in Psalm 52:7) saw His work; for the reference to the giving of water out of the rock would give a thought that is devoid of purpose here, and the assertion is too indefinite for it to be understood of the judgment upon those who tempted God (Hupfeld and Hitzig). It is therefore rather to be rendered: notwithstanding (ho'moos, Ew. 354, a) they had ( equals although they had, cf. גם in Isaiah 49:15) seen His work (His wondrous guiding and governing), and might therefore be sure that He would not suffer them to be destroyed. The verb קוּט coincides with κοτέω, κότος. בּדּור .ען, for which the lxx has τῇ γενεᾷ ἐκείνη, is anarthrous in order that the notion may be conceived of more qualitatively than relatively: with a (whole) generation. With ואמר Jahve calls to mind the repeated declarations of His vexation concerning their heart, which was always inclined towards error which leads to destruction - declarations, however, which bore no fruit. Just this ineffectiveness of His indignation had as its result that (אשׁר, not ὅτι but ὥστε, as in Genesis 13:16; Deuteronomy 28:27, Deuteronomy 28:51; 2 Kings 9:37, and frequently) He sware, etc. (אם equals verily not, Gesen. 155, 2, f, with the emphatic future form in n which follows). It is the oath in Numbers 14:27. that is meant. The older generation died in the desert, and therefore lost the entering into the rest of God, by reason of their disobedience. If now, many centuries after Moses, they are invited in the Davidic Psalter to submissive adoration of Jahve, with the significant call: "To-day if ye will hearken to His voice!" and with a reference to the warning example of the fathers, the obedience of faith, now as formerly, has therefore to look forward to the gracious reward of entering into God's rest, which the disobedient at that time lost; and the taking possession of Canaan was, therefore, not as yet the final מנוּחה (Deuteronomy 12:9). This is the connection of the wider train of thought which to the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews Heb 3:1, Hebrews 4:1, follows from this text of the Psalm.
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