Psalm 97:3
A fire goes before him, and burns up his enemies round about.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(3) This is an echo of Psalm 1:3. (Comp. also Psalm 18:8; Habakkuk 3:4-5.)

Psalm 97:3-5. A fire goeth before him, &c. — “The judgments of God, and their effects upon the world, are here set forth, under the usual similitude of lightning and fire from heaven, causing the earth to tremble, and the mountains to melt and dissolve away.” And by these terrible appearances in the natural world are especially signified those dreadful judgments of God, which were to be inflicted upon the Jews and others for their contempt and rejection of the Messiah, which was foretold in the Old Testament, and accomplished in the New. His lightnings enlightened the world — This phrase signifies, not so much illumination as terror and judgments, as appears, both from the following words, and from the constant use of the phrase in that sense. The hills melted — The strongest and loftiest parts of the earth, by which he may intend the great potentates of the world, who set themselves against the Messiah; at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth — Whose dominion shall not then be confined in Canaan, as now, in a manner, it is, but shall be enlarged over the whole earth. “The exaltation of Christ to the throne of his kingdom was followed by a dreadful display of that vengeance which broke in pieces the Jewish nation, and brought their civil and religious polity to an utter dissolution. In the history of their destruction the world of the ungodly may view a striking picture of the great and terrible day when the Lord Jesus shall render a recompense to all his enemies. He is then to descend in flaming fire; lightnings shall be his harbingers; the earth shall tremble, and the hills shall literally melt like wax at the presence of Jehovah.” — Horne. 97:1-7 Though many have been made happy in Christ, still there is room. And all have reason to rejoice in Christ's government. There is a depth in his counsels, which we must not pretend to fathom; but still righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. Christ's government, though it might be matter of joy to all, will yet be matter of terror to some; but it is their own fault that it is so. The most resolute and daring opposition will be baffled at the presence of the Lord. And the Lord Jesus will ere long come, and put an end to idol worship of every kind.A fire goeth before him - See Psalm 18:13, note; Psalm 50:3, note.

And burneth up his enemies round about - Is especially directed against his foes. That is, he manifests himself as a just God, inflicting vengeance on his enemies. He comes to reign, and in his reign all his foes will be destroyed.

3-5. The attending illustrations of God's awful justice on enemies (Ps 83:14) are seen in the disclosures of His almighty power on the elements of nature (compare Ps 46:2; 77:17; Hab 3:6, &c.). This fire, and lightning, and earthquake, and the sad effects of them, mentioned here, and Psalm 97:4,5, signify those dreadful judgments of God which should be inflicted upon the Jews and others for their refusal and contempt of the Messias; which was foretold in the Old Testament, and accomplished in the New Testament. A fire goeth before him, Not the fiery law, which went forth from his right hand on Mount Sinai; but rather his Gospel, which, as it enlightens, warms, comforts, and refreshes his people, searches, torments, and destroys his enemies, and is the savour of death unto death to them; see Jeremiah 23:29. Some apply this to the gifts of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost, signified by cloven tongues of fire; but then no such effect followed as mentioned in the next clause: it seems best to interpret it of his wrath, which, like fire, was poured out to the uttermost on the Jews, for their disbelief and rejection of him; they would not have him to reign over them; they despised his Gospel, and slew his servants; wherefore he sent the Roman armies to them, who destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city, Matthew 22:7, this will be also verified in the second coming of Christ, who will descend in flaming fire, and the earth will be burnt up, and all that is therein, 2 Thessalonians 1:7, some Jewish writers interpret this of the war of Gog and Magog, in Ezekiel, which they suppose still future; as, when it is, fire will be sent and rained upon them, Ezekiel 38:22, but may be better applied to the Gog and Magog in Revelation 20:8.

and burneth up his enemies round about; so that none can escape: this was true of the Jewish nation, who were burnt up; so that there was not left root nor branch in it, Malachi 4:1, and will be true of the wicked, at the general conflagration of the world, upon Christ's second coming; and of the Gog and Magog army, after the resurrection.

A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies round about.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 3. - A fire goeth before him. So long as there is evil in the world, the "fire" of God's wrath must necessarily "go before him" at each theophany, to sweep the evil from his path (see Isaiah 42:25). It is in this sense that "our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:29). And burneth up his enemies round about (comp. Psalm 50:8; Matthew 13:30). That which is to be said among the peoples is the joyous evangel of the kingdom of heaven which is now come and realized. The watchword is "Jahve is King," as in Isaiah 52:7. The lxx correctly renders: ὁ κύριος ἐβασίλευσε

(Note: In the Psalterium Veronense with the addition apo xylu, Cod. 156, Latinizing ἀπὸ τῷ ξύλῳ; in the Latin Psalters (the Vulgate excepted) a ligno, undoubtedly an addition by an early Christian hand, upon which, however, great value is set by Justin and all the early Latin Fathers.)

for מלך is intended historically (Revelation 11:17). אף, as in Psalm 93:1, introduces that which results from this fact, and therefore to a certain extent goes beyond it. The world below, hitherto shaken by war and anarchy, now stands upon foundations that cannot be shaken in time to come, under Jahve's righteous and gentle sway. This is the joyful tidings of the new era which the poet predicts from out of his own times, when he depicts the joy that will then pervade the whole creation; in connection with which it is hardly intentional that Psalm 96:11 and Psalm 96:11 acrostically contain the divine names יהוה and יהו. This joining of all creatures in the joy at Jahve's appearing is a characteristic feature of Isaiah 40:1. These cords are already struck in Isaiah 35:1. "The sea and its fulness" as in Isaiah 42:10. In the chronicler Psalm 96:10 (ויאמרו instead of אמרו) stands between Psalm 96:11 and Psalm 96:11 - according to Hitzig, who uses all his ingenuity here in favour of that other recension of the text, by an oversight of the copyist.

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