Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake.
Verse 1. - Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto thy Name give glory. God is prayed to help Israel, but not for their sakes, not to cover them with glory - rather for his own sake, that glory may rest on his Name, and himself, among the nations. For thy mercy, and for thy truth's sake. In order to be true to his qualities of mercifulness and truthfulness.
Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God?
Verse 2. - Wherefore should the heathen say, Where is now their God? (comp. Psalm 42:3, 10; Psalm 79:10). If Israel is un-helped, the heathen will triumph, and ask scornfully what has become of Israel's God? Is he unable, or is he unwilling, to deliver them?
But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.
Verse 3. - But - rather, and - as though he would say, "and all the while, as the heathen scorn and question" - our God is in the heavens; in his place, where he always is, watching over us. He hath done what soever he hath pleased. He has the will to help us, and he has the power to do whatsoever he pleases.
Their idols are silver and gold, the work of men's hands.
Verses 4-8. - The scorn of the heathen is retaliated. They scoff at the God of Israel. What, then, are their own gods? Silver and gold indeed (ver. 4), but the work of human hands. Fashioned into a human shape, as if they were sentient being - but absolutely devoid of all sense and intelligence. The satire is somewhat roughly worked out (vers. 5-7), but idolatry provokes rough speaking; and the tone here adopted is imitated in Psalm 135:15-18, and echoed in Isaiah 44:9-20. The inspired writers seem to have felt, that, when idolatry came under consideration, the criticism should be brief and trenchant. Verse 4. - Their idols are silver and gold. At the best - often mere wood and stone (Deuteronomy 4:28); but the idols of the Babylonians were mostly of the more precious materials (Herod., 1:183; Daniel 3:1; Ep. Jeremiah 1:4, 11, etc.). The work of men's hands (Psalm 135:15; Isaiah 44:12-17). To avoid this reproach, some images were said to have fallen down from heaven (Acts 19:35).
They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not:
Verses 5-7. - They have mouths, but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: they have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not: they have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk net: neither speak they through their throat. Possessing a semblance of every organ of human sense, they are wholly unable to perform any of the functions. That men should worship them, or believe in their power to help, is an utter absurdity.
They have ears, but they hear not: noses have they, but they smell not:
They have hands, but they handle not: feet have they, but they walk not: neither speak they through their throat.
They that make them are like unto them; so is every one that trusteth in them.
Verse 8. - They that make them are like unto them. Equally vain, futile, and power less (comp. Isaiah 44:9; Jeremiah 2:5). So is every one that trusteth in them. To "trust" in an idol is an almost inconceivable folly. Yet there is abundant proof that the heathen actually did so trust (see Herod., 5:80; 8:64, 83).
O Israel, trust thou in the LORD: he is their help and their shield.
Verses 9-11. - The idols and the idol-worshippers having been sufficiently scorned; the latter especially, for their "trust" in idols, Israel is exhorted to trust in the only sure Object of confidence, Jehovah. Three several times the leader of the choir gives forth the call - " Trust in the Lord " - and three several times the choir responds with the acknowledgment that he, and he alone, "is their Help and Shield." The exhortation seems to be addressed, first, to the lay people generally (ver. 9); then to the clerical order (ver. 10); finally, to all, whether laity or clergy, who are true Israelites at heart (comp. vers. 12, 13). Verse 9. - O Israel, trust thou in the Lord. Follow not the example of the heathen who trust in idols. Rather, be an example to them. He is their Help and their Shield (comp. Psalm 33:20). The change of per son implies a change of speaker.
O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield.
Verse 10. - O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord. God's ministers were yet more bound than his people generally to trust in him. He is their Help and their Shield (comp. ver. 9).
Ye that fear the LORD, trust in the LORD: he is their help and their shield.
Verse 11. - Ye that fear the Lord, trust in the Lord. Professor Cheyne explains this of proselytes, the σεβόμενοι of the Acts; but surely the order followed is one of climax - first, ordinary Israelites; next, those officially holy, the priests; finally, those actually holy, the truly faithful Israelites. He is their Help and their Shield. It would have been better in every case to have kept the Hebrew order of the words - "Their Help and their Shield is he."
The LORD hath been mindful of us: he will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel; he will bless the house of Aaron.
Verses 12, 13. - The whole choir, or perhaps the whole congregation, expresses its confidence in God. He has always Been mind-fill of his people, and, in response to their threefold expression of trust, will bestow on them a threefold blessing. Verse 12. - The Lord hath been mindful of us (comp. Psalm 98:4; Psalm 136:23). He will bless us; he will bless the house of Israel (comp. ver. 10). He will bless the house of Aaron (comp. ver. 11).
He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great.
Verse 13. - He will bless them that fear the Lord (comp. ver. 12). Both small and great; literally, the small with the great; i.e. all, without any exception.
The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children.
Verses 14-16. - Again the leader raises his voice and announces special - no longer general - blessings:
(1) increase of their numbers (ver. 14); and
(2) inheritance of the earth (ver. 16). Verse 14. - The Lord shall increase you more and more. This was the original blessing bestowed on Abraham (Genesis 13:16; Genesis 17:4-6), and continually reiterated (Genesis 18:18; Genesis 22:17; Genesis 28:14, etc.). It is much dwelt upon by Isaiah (Isaiah 49:8-12, 18-23; Isaiah 54:1-3; Isaiah 60:3-12, etc.). The main fulfillment of the promise was through the conversion of the Gentiles, who, when converted, became the true "Israel of God." But, even apart from this, the lineal descendants of Abraham have "increased more and more," to an extent which is most extraordinary. You and your children. You yourselves shall increase; but your children shall yet more increase. The multiplying would begin at once, but would be greater and more striking afterwards.
Ye are blessed of the LORD which made heaven and earth.
Verse 15. - Ye are the blessed of the Lord which made heaven and earth; i.e. of the true Lord and God, the Creator of all things, visible and invisible.
The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD'S: but the earth hath he given to the children of men.
Verse 16. - The heaven, even the heavens, are the Lord's; literally, the heavens are heavens of Jehovah. They belong to him - he dwells there; but it is otherwise with the earth. But the earth hath he given to the children of men. For man God framed this fair world; to man's use he adapted it with minutest care; and certainly not least for his own people, who are "the salt of the earth" - the human race by representation.
The dead praise not the LORD, neither any that go down into silence.
Verses 17, 18. - Once more the choir and congregation speak. The mention of "heaven and earth" (ver. 15) reminds them of the third place - Sheol. In Sheol is no praise of God, but only "silence." They, at any rate, while they remain on earth, and have the power to praise God, will praise him without ceasing. Verse 17. - The dead praise not the Lord (comp. Psalm 6:5; Psalm 30:9; Psalm 88:11; Isaiah 38:18). Neither any that go down into silence. The notion of Sheol as a place of silence occurs in Psalm 94:17, and strongly in Isaiah 38:18 (see the 'Pulpit Commentary on Isaiah,' vol. 2. p. 39).
But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the LORD.
Verse 18. - But we will bless the Lord; literally, we will bless Jah - the shortened, and perhaps more emphatic, form of Jehovah. We, so long as we have any being, will sing praises unto our God (Psalm 146:2) - we will bless him, praise him, give thanks to him, from this time forth, and for evermore - not an absolute assertion of immortality, but a strong instinctive anticipation of it. Praise the Lord (see Psalm 104. - 106, 113, etc.).