Verse 1. - O God, thou hast east us off, thou hast scattered us, thou hast been displeased (comp. Psalm 44:9-11). The expressions used imply a signal defeat, which, though not mentioned in the historical books, harmonizes with the account given in 1 Kings of the severe treatment of Edom by Joab. From the fact of the defeat the psalmist infers the ground of it - God's displeasure. O turn thyself to us again; rather, O restore to us (i.e. make restoration to us) again (see the Revised Version).
Thou hast made the earth to tremble; thou hast broken it: heal the breaches thereof; for it shaketh.
Verse 2. - Thou hast made the earth (rather, the land) to tremble. The blow struck convulsed the whole land - i.e. the people in it. It is not really an earthquake, but a panic fear, that is intended. Thou hast broken it; or, rent it. The imagery of an earthquake is kept up. Heal the breaches thereof; for it shaketh. The panic fear still continued.
Thou hast shewed thy people hard things: thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment.
Verse 3. - Thou hast showed thy people hard things; literally, a hard thing, or harshness; i.e. severity. Thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment; or, of trembling (as in Isaiah 51:17, 22); comp. Psalm 75:8; Jeremiah 25:15-17: 49:12; Ezekiel 23:32-34; Zechariah 12:2. The outpouring of Divine vengeance is represented under the figure of presenting a cup, which the doomed man is forced to drink.
Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. Selah.
Verse 4. - Thou hast given a tanner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of the truth. So most commentators. But the ancient rendering, recently revived by Professor Cheyne, is perhaps preferable. According to this, the meaning is, "Thou hast indeed given a banner to them that fear thee (see Exodus 17:15), but only that they may flee before the bow" (τοῦ φυγεῖν ἀπὸ προωσ´που τόξων, LXX.). On the last occasion that the banner had been lifted, it had seemed to be, not so much a rallying point, as a signal for dispersion.
That thy beloved may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me.
Verse 5. - That thy beloved may be delivered; save with thy right hand, and hear me; rather, hear us. From complaint (vers. 1-4) the psalmist abruptly turns to prayer, thus closing the first strophe with a gleam of hope.
God hath spoken in his holiness; I will rejoice, I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth.
Verses 6-8. - Appeal is next made in God's promises. Some suppose that a Divine oracle had been recently given to David himself, and that he here records the words of it. But, in that case, it is difficult to account for the despondent tone of vers. 1-4. Hengstenberg's explanation seems preferable, that David now encourages himself by a "reference to the general aspect of the assurances given in the Pentateuch in regard to the possession of the land of Canaan in its widest extent, and to victory over hostile neighbours," and that he has his eye especially on the blessing of Jacob (Genesis 49) and the blessing of Moses (Deuteronomy 33). If these assurances are to be depended on, Israel cannot now be about to succumb to Edom. Verse 6. - God hath spoken in his holiness; or, promised by his holiness (comp. Psalm 89:35). As God is holy, he cannot falsify his promises. I will rejoice, I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth; i.e. I will distribute Canaan among my people - both the western region, of which Shechem was the chief town (1 Kings 12:25), and the eastern, which contained "the valley of Succoth" (Genesis 33:17). God, having assigned the whole laud to his people (Genesis 13:14, 15), "meted it out" through Joshua, his servant, and gave to each tribe its inheritance.
Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine; Ephraim also is the strength of mine head; Judah is my lawgiver;
Verse 7. - Gilead is mine, and Manasseh is mine. Gilead was an old name for the territory beyond the Jordan (Genesis 37:25), especially the more northern portion of it. Manasseh had a portion of this territory assigned to him (Numbers 32:39-42; Joshua 17:1). But Manasseh had also a large inheritance on the western side of Jordan (Joshua 17:7-11). It is not quite clear whether both the divisions of Manasseh, or the eastern one only, is here intended. Ephraim also is the strength of mine head. Ephraim was the most important of the tribes next to Judah, and held the central position in the western region, forming the main strength of the northern kingdom after the separation under Jeroboam (see 1 Kings 12:25; and comp. Isaiah 7:2, 5, 9, 17; Isaiah 9:21; Hosea 4:17; Hosea 5:7-14; Hosea 6:4-10, etc.). Judah is my lawgiver (comp. Genesis 49:10; Numbers 21:17); i.e. "my ruling tribe" - the tribe to which I have committed the government of my people" (see 1 Samuel 16:1; 2 Samuel 2:4; 2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 78:68).
Moab is my washpot; over Edom will I cast out my shoe: Philistia, triumph thou because of me.
Verse 8. - Moab is my washpot. A term of extreme contempt (see Herod., 2:172). The subjugation of Moab was prophesied by Balaam (Numbers 24:17), and effected by David (2 Samuel 8:2). Over Edom will I cast out my shoe. The reference to Ruth 4:7, 8, which is commonly made, is very doubtful. Probably no more is intended than that Edom will be a slave of so low a rank as only to clean the shoes of its master. The subjugation of Edom, like that of Moab, had been prophesied by Balaam (Numbers 24:18). Philistia, triumph thou because of me. The context will not allow of this rendering, since Philistia, like the other enemies of Israel, must be triumphed over, and not triumph. Translate, over Philistia is my triumphing (comp. Psalm 108:9).
Who will bring me into the strong city? who will lead me into Edom?
Verse 9-12. - Rehearsal of God's promises has raised the psalmist out of despondency, and he can now confidently call God to his assistance. Edom is to be conquered, for so God has premised (ver. 8). But how? Who will lead out Israel's armies? Will God, who has lately "cast Israel off"? If not, it must he man. But "vain is the help of man" (ver. 11). So the call is made that God will give help in the trouble - and with the call comes full confidence - and the triumphant cry goes forth, "Through God we shall do valiantly; for he it is that shall tread down our enemies" (ver. 12). Verse 9. - Who will bring me into the strong city? The "strong city" of Edom was Sela, "The Cliff" - now Petra. And it was a city of enormous strength, rock hewn in the main, and guarded by frightful precipices. Who will conduct me through its strong natural and artificial defences, and give me possession of the place? Who will lead me into Edom? Who will even bring me into the country? The Edomites, flushed with their recent victory, will, of course, dispute my entrance. Who will enable me to overcome their resistance?
Wilt not thou, O God, which hadst cast us off? and thou, O God, which didst not go out with our armies?
Verse 10. - Wilt not thou, O God, which hadst cast us off? rather, Hast not thou, O God, cast us off? Can we expect thee to lead us, when thou hast so lately cast us off, and, as we hear it said on all sides, dost not go out with our armies? A reference, perhaps, to Psalm 44:9.
Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man.
Verse 11. - Give us help from trouble. Faith combats doubt, and, overcoming it, finds an utterance - "Give us help now, whatever thou hast done in the past." Our trouble is great. "Help us from it." For vain is the help of man. We have, therefore, no hope but in thee.
Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.
Verse 12. - Through God we shall do valiantly. No miracle is expected or asked for. Let God look upon us favourably - let his light shine into our hearts, and then "we ourselves shall do valiantly" - we shall gain the victory - we shall accomplish the prophecy of Balaam (Numbers 24:18); and Edom shall pass into our possession. (For the fulfilment, see 2 Samuel 8:14; 1 Chronicles 18:13.) For he it is that shall tread down our enemies (comp. Psalm 44:5), which has the same meaning, "Through thy Name will we tread them under that rise up against us." (For the extent to which Edom was trodden down, see 1 Kings 11:15, 16.)