Psalm 99:6
Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among them that call upon his name; they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.
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(6) Moses.—Better, a Moses and an Aaron among his friends, and a Samuel among them that call upon his name; calling upon the Lord, and he answers them; in the pillar of cloud he speaks unto them. The poet is enhancing the sacred character of the services of his own day by likening the priests and ministers to the sacred heroes of the past, as we might distinguish a period of great scientific achievement by saying, “We have a Newton or a Bacon among us.” To make it a mere historical reference, “Moses and Aaron were,” &c, would be altogether too abrupt and inaccurate, since Moses was not a khohen, nor did God speak to Samuel in the cloudy pillar. It is true that the present tense is changed in Psalm 99:7 to the preterite, but it is quite natural that the psalmist should glide into the narrative style after the mention of the historical name. The Son of Sirach also makes special reference to the prayer of Samuel (Ecclesiasticus 46:16). Possibly, too, there is an allusion to the meaning of his name, “asked,” or “heard of God.”

Psalm 99:6. Moses and Aaron among his priests, &c. — Or, with his princes, as the Hebrew, בכהניו, may be rendered, or his chiefs; that is, his principal and most famous ministers. Moses, however, might with propriety be ranked among the priests, because, before the institution of the priesthood, he executed that office, and because he often interceded with God for the people; which was a very considerable part of the priests’ work. And Samuel — Who used frequently and solemnly to intercede with God on behalf of the people. The meaning is, “Thus did Moses, and Aaron, and Samuel also, one of the greatest of those prophets who were wont to intercede for you.” Thus he urges them to perform the duty of praising and worshipping God, by the examples of three most eminent persons, who practised this duty with happy success.

99:6-9 The happiness of Israel is made out by referring to the most useful governors of that people. They in every thing made God's word and law their rule, knowing that they could not else expect that their prayers should be answered. They all wonderfully prevailed with God in prayer; miracles were wrought at their request. They pleaded for the people, and obtained answers of peace. Our Prophet and High Priest, of infinitely greater dignity than Moses, Aaron, or Samuel, has received and declared to us the will of the Father. Let us not only exalt the Lord with our lips, but give him the throne in our heart; and while we worship him upon his mercy-seat, let us never forget that he is holy.Moses and Aaron among his priests - Among the ministers of religion; or, as officiating in the service of God. Let them come as representatives of their order - as representing those who conduct the public worship of God, and join in his praise. The idea is, that all mankind should join in his praise, and those mentioned here as among the most eminent of those who were engaged in directing the public worship of God. Moses could be called a "priest" only in the most general sense of the term, as having been employed in directing and arranging for public worship, and as being of the original tribe of Levi, from whom the whole sacerdotal order sprang.

And Samuel among them that call upon his name - Among those who are true worshippers, in distinction from the priests who were specially appointed to the public service of God. The idea is, that praise should be offered by "all" classes: by priests and by people. As Moses and Aaron were among the most eminent of the former class, so Samuel was among the most distinguished of those who were not of the priestly order. These were "representative men;" and the meaning is, that all who were of their order or rank - priests and people - should unite in the worship of God.

They called upon the Lord - They did call upon the Lord; they worshipped Yahweh. They gave the influence of their names and of their position to his public service. They thus showed their sense of the propriety of praising God; they gave the countenance of their example to public worship and praise; and the benefits which they received in answer to prayer showed the propriety and advantage of thus publicly acknowledging God.

And he answered them - They did not call upon him in vain. He heard their prayers. He bestowed blessings on them in connection with their worship. It was not a useless thing to praise and worship him. The worship of God is thus commended to us not merely from the propriety of the act itself, but from its advantages. It is unnecessary to refer to particular instances in the history of these people when their prayers were answered. Their lives were full of such instances - as the lives of all who truly call upon God are now. If a man who prays could "see" all that comes to him every day in answer to prayer - all the things bestowed which he had "desired" in prayer, and which would not have been conferred on him if he had not prayed, there would no longer be any doubt on the question whether God answers prayer.

6-8. The experience of these servants of God is cited for encouragement.

among … priests, among … upon the Lord [and] He spake … pillar—may be referred to all three (compare Ex 18:19; Le 8:15; De 5:5; 1Sa 9:13).

6 Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among them that call upon his name; they called upon the Lord, and he answered them.

7 He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar; they kept his testimonies, and the ordinance that he gave them.

8 Thou answeredst them, O Lord our God: thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions.

9 Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy hill; for the Lord our God is holy.

Psalm 99:6

"Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among them that call upon his name." Though not ordained to the typical priesthood, Moses was a true priest, even as Melchizedek had been before him. God has ever had a priesthood beside and above that of the law. The three holy men here mentioned all stood in his courts, and saw his holiness, each one after his own order. Moses saw the Lord in flaming fire revealing his perfect law, Aaron full often watched the sacred fire devour the sin-offering, and Samuel witnessed the judgment of the Lord on Eli's house, because of the error of his way. These each one stood in the gap when the wrath of God broke forth, because his holiness had been insulted; and acting as intercessors, they screened the nation from the great and terrible God, who otherwise would in a dreadful manner have executed judgment in Jacob. Let these men, or such as these, lead us in our worship, and let us approach the Lord at the mercy-seat as they did, for he is as accessible to us as to them. They made it their life's business to call upon him in prayer, and by so doing brought down innumerable blessings upon themselves and others. Does not the Lord call us also to come up into the mount with Moses, and to enter the most holy place with Aaron? Do we not hear him call us by our name as he did Samuel? And do we not answer, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth"? "They called upon the Lord, and he answered them." Not in vain were their prayers; but being a holy God he was true to his promises, and hearkened to them from off the mercy-seat. Here is reason for praise, for answers to the petitions of some are proofs of God's readiness to hear others. These three men asked large things, they pleaded for a whole nation, and they stayed great plagues and turned away fiery wrath; who would not exercise himself in adoring so great and merciful a God? If he were unholy he would be false to his word and refuse his people's cries; this, then, is recorded for our joy and for his glory, that holy men of old were not suffered to pray in vain.

Psalm 99:7

"He Spake unto them in the cloudy pillar." We have had mention of the ark and the shekinah, and now of the fiery cloudy pillar, which was another visible token of the presence of God in the midst of Israel. Responses came to Moses and Aaron out of that glorious overshadowing cloud, and though Samuel saw it not, yet to him also came the mystic voice which was wont to thunder forth from that divine canopy. Men have had converse with God, let men therefore speak to God in return. He has told us things to come, let us in return confess the sins which are past; he has revealed his mind to us, let us then pour out our hearts before him. "They kept his testimonies." When others turned aside they were faithful; in their hearts they laid up his word, and in their lives they obeyed it. When he spake to them they observed his will, and therefore when they spake to him he yielded to their desires. This keeping of the divine testimonies is a virtue all too rare in these our days; men run after their own views and opinions, and make light of the truth of God; hence it is that they fail in prayer, and scoffers have even dared to say that prayer avails not at all. May the good Lord bring back his people to reverence his word, and then will he also have respect unto the voice of their cry. "And the ordinance that he gave them." His practical precept they observed as well as his doctrinal instruction. Ordinances are not to be trifled with, or testimonies will also be despised; and the converse is also true, a light estimate of inspired dogma Is sure to end in neglect of moral virtues. To Moses, Aaron, and Samuel special and personal charges were committed, and they were all true to their trust, for they stood in awe of the Lord their God, and worshipped him with their whole souls. They were very different men, and had each one a work to do peculiar to himself, yet because each was a man of prayer they were all preserved in their integrity, fulfilled their office, and blessed their generation. Lord, teach us like Moses to hold up our hands in prayer and conquer Amalek, like Aaron to wave the censer between the living and the dead till the plague is stayed, and like Samuel to say to a guilty people, "God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you;" if thou wilt make us mighty with thee in prayer, we shall also be kept faithful before thee in the service which thou hast laid upon us.

Psalm 99:8

"Thou answeredst them, O Lord our God." A sweet title and a cheering fact. Our covenant God in a very special manner heard his three servants when they pleaded for the people. "Thou wast a God that forgavest them, though thou tookest vengeance of their inventions." He forgave the sinners, but he slew their sins. Some apply this verse to Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, and remind us that each of these fell into a fault and received chastisement. Of Samuel they assert that, for having set up his sons as his successors, he was compelled to submit to the anointing of Saul as king, which was a great grief to him; this is to our mind a very doubtful statement, and leads us to abandon the interpretation altogether. We believe that the passage refers to the nation which was spared through the intercession of these three holy men, but yet was severely chastened for its transgressions. In answer to the cry of Moses the tribes lived on, but the then existing generation could not enter Canaan: Aaron's golden calf was broken, though the fire of the Lord did not consume the people; and Israel smarted under the harsh government of Saul, though at Samuel's request its murmurings against the theocratic rule of their fathers' God was not visited with pestilence or famine. So to forgive sin as at the same time to express abhorrence of it, is the peculiar glory of God, and is best seen in the atonement of our Lord Jesus. Reader, are you a believer? Then your sin is forgiven you; but so surely as you are a child of God the rod of paternal discipline will be laid upon you if your walk be not close with God. "You only have I known of all the nations of the earth, therefore I will punish you for your iniquities."

Psalm 99:9

"Exalt the Lord our God." A second time the delightful title of Jehovah our God is used, and it is quickly followed by a third. The Psalm is Trinitarian in its whole structure. In each of his sacred persons the Lord is the God of his people; the Father is ours, the Son is ours, and the Holy Spirit is ours: let us exalt him with all our ransomed powers. "And worship at his holy hill." Where he appoints his temple let us resort. No spot of ground is now fenced about as peculiarly holy, or to be regarded as more sacred than another; yet his visible church is his chosen hill, and there would we be found, numbered with his people, and unite with them in worship. "For the Lord our God is holy." Again this devout description is repeated, and made the climax of the song. Oh lot hearts made pure within, so that we may rightly perceive and worthily praise the infinite perfection of the Triune Lord.

He presseth them to perform the duty of praising and worshipping God by the examples of three eminent persons who practised this duty, and that with happy success. He reckoneth Moses among the priests not without cause, partly because before the institution of the priesthood he executed that office, Exodus 24:6 Num 7; and partly because he oft interceded to God for the people; which was a very considerable part of the priest’s work. See Numbers 6:23, &c.; Joel 2:17. That call upon his name; who used frequently and solemnly to intercede with God on the behalf of the people. So the general expression is here used synecdoehically for this particular kind of prayer; such synecdoches being very frequent in Scripture.

He answered them; Moses, Exodus 32, and elsewhere; Aaron, Numbers 16, 1 Samuel 7:9 12:19: compare Jeremiah 15:1.

Moses and Aaron among his priests,.... The priests of the Lord, called and appointed by him, that ministered to him in that office, were the priests of Christ, types of him, and ceased when he came: these were the chief among them, or of them, as Kimchi observes: Moses officiated as a priest before Aaron was called and separated to that service; yea, it was he that consecrated and installed him in it, and that by offering sacrifice among other things, Exodus 29:1, Numbers 7:1, and that Aaron was the chief of them there can be no question, seeing he was the first from whom a race of priests sprung, and who gave name to that order of priesthood which continued until the Messiah's coming:

and Samuel among them that call upon his name; these, according to Kimchi, describe the prophets, among whom Samuel was the chief; see Acts 3:24 calling on the name of the Lord includes the whole worship of God, and is often used particularly of prayer; the object of which is God, and him only; and who is to be called upon at all times, and especially in a time of trouble, and always in faith, and with sincerity and truth; and an honour it is to be among such persons: now these three men, who were eminent for religion and piety, and particularly prayer, see Jeremiah 15:1 are mentioned to animate and encourage the saints, by their example, to the worship and service of the Lord, before exhorted to: they called upon the Lord; the Lord Christ, who is the object of invocation, was so in the Old Testament dispensation, and should be so in the New; see Acts 7:59. Moses called upon him, Exodus 32:11; so did Aaron, Numbers 16:22, and also Samuel, 1 Samuel 7:8,

and he answered them; as he does all his people, sooner or later, in one way or another; which is no small encouragement to pray unto him.

Moses and Aaron among his priests, {d} and Samuel among them that call upon his name; they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.

(d) Under these three he comprehends the whole people of Israel, with whom God made his promise.

6. A Moses and an Aaron are among his priests,

And a Samuel among those that call upon his name:

When they call unto Jehovah, HE answereth them.

6. It was the office of the priests to intercede and mediate between God and man. This priestly function was exercised by Moses when Israel was fighting with Amalek (Exodus 17:11 ff.), when they sinned by worshipping the calf (Exodus 32:30 ff.; Deuteronomy 9:18 ff.), and when they murmured on the return of the spies (Numbers 14:13 ff.). It is to such occasions as these that the Psalmist refers, rather than to his exercise of priestly functions in the ratification of the covenant at Sinai (Exodus 24:6 f.), or in the dedication of the Tabernacle (Exodus 40:22 ff.), or in the consecration of Aaron and his sons (Leviticus 8). For an example of Aaron’s mediation see Numbers 16:46 ff. Samuel too was famous for the prevailing efficacy of his prayers. See 1 Samuel 7:8-9; 1 Samuel 12:16 ff.; and cp. Sir 46:16. In the clause when they call &c. all true Israelites seem to be included.

6–9. The holiness of Jehovah demonstrated by His dealings with Israel.

Two interpretations of these verses deserve consideration. (1) They may be understood, as in the A.V., as a historical retrospect, offered for the encouragement and warning of Israel of the restoration. Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, were prevailing intercessors in past time. God revealed Himself to His people, answering their prayers, but punishing while He pardoned, in order to demonstrate His holiness. That history, it is implied, will be repeated. God will still answer prayer, and reveal Himself to Israel; but when Israel sins and forgets that Jehovah is a Holy God, He must needs punish even when He pardons.

(2) They may however be taken to refer to the present, thus:

Verse 6. - Moses and Aaron among his priests. Moses, though not called a priest in the Pentateuch, performed many priestly acts, such as sprinkling the blood of the covenant at Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:6-8), setting in order the tabernacle (Exodus 40:18-33), consecrating Aaron and his sons (Leviticus 8:6-30), interceding for the people (Exodus 32:30-32; Numbers 14:13-19), etc. He is therefore, not improperly, here included among God's priests. And Samuel among them that call upon his Name. Samuel was not a priest, but a simple Levite (1 Chronicles 6:16-28). He was, however, a powerful intercessor with God, a righteous man whose effectual fervent prayer availed much. He is united with Moses by Jeremiah, as having weight with God through his prayers (Jeremiah 15:1; see also 1 Samuel 12:19-22). They called upon the Lord, and he answered them (see Deuteronomy 11:19; Deuteronomy 10:10; 1 Samuel 12:17, etc.). Psalm 99:6The vision of the third Sanctus looks into the history of the olden time prior to the kings. In support of the statement that Jahve is a living God, and a God who proves Himself in mercy and in judgment, the poet appeals to three heroes of the olden time, and the events recorded of them. The expression certainly sounds as though it had reference to something belonging to the present time; and Hitzig therefore believes that it must be explained of the three as heavenly intercessors, after the manner of Onias and Jeremiah in the vision 2 Macc. 15:12-14. But apart from this presupposing an active manifestation of life on the part of those who have fallen happily asleep, which is at variance with the ideas of the latest as well as of the earliest Psalms concerning the other world, this interpretation founders upon Psalm 99:7, according to which a celestial discourse of God with the three "in the pillar of cloud" ought also to be supposed. The substantival clauses Psalm 99:6 bear sufficient evident in themselves of being a retrospect, by which the futures that follow are stamped as being the expression of the contemporaneous past. The distribution of the predicates to the three is well conceived. Moses was also a mighty man in prayer, for with his hands uplifted for prayer he obtained the victory for his people over Amalek (Exodus 17:11.), and on another occasion placed himself in the breach, and rescued them from the wrath of God and from destruction (Psalm 106:23; Exodus 32:30-32; cf. also Numbers 12:13); and Samuel, it is true, is only a Levite by descent, but by office in a time of urgent need a priest (cohen), for he sacrifices independently in places where, by reason of the absence of the holy tabernacle with the ark of the covenant, it was not lawful, according to the letter of the law, to offer sacrifices, he builds an altar in Ramah, his residence as judge, and has, in connection with the divine services on the high place (Bama) there, a more than high-priestly position, inasmuch as the people do not begin the sacrificial repasts before he has blessed the sacrifice (1 Samuel 9:13). But the character of a mighty man in prayer is outweighed in the case of Moses by the character of the priest; for he is, so to speak, the proto-priest of Israel, inasmuch as he twice performed priestly acts which laid as it were a foundation for all times to come, viz., the sprinkling of the blood at the ratification of the covenant under Sinai (Exodus 24), and the whole ritual which was a model for the consecrated priesthood, at the consecration of the priests (Leviticus 8). It was he, too, who performed the service in the sanctuary prior to the consecration of the priests: he set the shew-bread in order, prepared the candlestick, and burnt incense upon the golden altar (Exodus 40:22-27). In the case of Samuel, on the other hand, the character of the mediator in the religious services is outweighed by that of the man mighty in prayer: by prayer he obtained Israel the victory of Ebenezer over the Philistines (1 Samuel 7:8.), and confirmed his words of warning with the miraculous sign, that at his calling upon God it would thunder and rain in the midst of a cloudless season (1 Samuel 12:16, cf. Sir. 46:16f.).

The poet designedly says: Moses and Aaron were among His priests, and Samuel among His praying ones. This third twelve-line strophe holds good, not only of the three in particular, but of the twelve-tribe nation of priests and praying ones to which they belong. For Psalm 99:7 cannot be meant of the three, since, with the exception of a single instance (Numbers 12:5), it is always Moses only, not Aaron, much less Samuel, with whom God negotiates in such a manner. אליהם refers to the whole people, which is proved by their interest in the divine revelation given by the hand of Moses out of the cloudy pillar (Exodus 33:7.). Nor can Psalm 99:6 therefore be understood of the three exclusively, since there is nothing to indicate the transition from them to the people: crying (קראים, syncopated like חטאים, 1 Samuel 24:11) to Jahve, i.e., as often as they (these priests and praying ones, to whom a Moses, Aaron, and Samuel belong) cried unto Jahve, He answered them-He revealed Himself to this people who had such leaders (choragi), in the cloudy pillar, to those who kept His testimonies and the law which He gave them. A glance at Psalm 99:8 shows that in Israel itself the good and the bad, good and evil, are distinguished. God answered those who could pray to Him with a claim to be answered. Psalm 99:7, is, virtually at least, a relative clause, declaring the prerequisite of a prayer that may be granted. In Psalm 99:8 is added the thought that the history of Israel, in the time of its redemption out of Egypt, is not less a mirror of the righteousness of God than of the pardoning grace of God. If Psalm 99:7-8 are referred entirely to the three, then עלילות and נקם, referred to their sins of infirmity, appear to be too strong expressions. But to take the suffix of עלילותם objectively (ea quae in eos sunt moliti Core et socii ejus), with Symmachus (καὶ ἔκδικος ἐπὶ ταῖς ἐπηρείναις αὐτῶν) and Kimchi, as the ulciscens in omnes adinventiones eorum of the Vulgate is interpreted,

(Note: Vid., Raemdonck in his David propheta cet. 1800: in omnes injurias ipsis illatas, uti patuit in Core cet.)

is to do violence to it. The reference to the people explains it all without any constraint, and even the flight of prayer that comes in here (cf. Micah 7:18). The calling to mind of the generation of the desert, which fell short of the promise, is an earnest admonition for the generation of the present time. The God of Israel is holy in love and in wrath, as He Himself unfolds His Name in Exodus 34:6-7. Hence the poet calls upon his fellow-countrymen to exalt this God, whom they may with pride call their own, i.e., to acknowledge and confess His majesty, and to fall down and worship at (ל cf. אל, Psalm 5:8) the mountain of His holiness, the place of His choice and of His presence.

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