Verse 1. - Sing aloud unto God our Strength. "Loud" singing is regarded as indicative of earnestness and sincerity (see 2 Chronicles 20:19; Nehemiah 12:42; Psalm 33:3; Psalm 98:4, etc.). (On God as Israel's "Strength," see Psalm 27:1; Psalm 28:8; Psalm 46:1; Psalm 111:7.) Make a joyful noise unto the God of Jacob. The word translated "make a joyful noise" is especially used of the blare of trumpets (Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 29:1).
Take a psalm, and bring hither the timbrel, the pleasant harp with the psaltery.
Verse 2. - Take a psalm; or, lift up a song. And bring hither the timbrel; rather, strike the timbrel. The pleasant harp with the psaltery. The instruments ordinarily used in the service of the sanctuary were harps, psalteries, and cymbals (1 Chronicles 15:16; 1 Chronicles 16:5; 1 Chronicles 25:6; 2 Chronicles 5:12; 2 Chronicles 24:25; Nehemiah 12:27). Here the timbrel (תֹפ) seems to take the place of the cymbal.
Blow up the trumpet in the new moon, in the time appointed, on our solemn feast day.
Verse 3. - Blow up the trumpet in the new moon. There was a Mowing of trumpets at the beginning of every month (Numbers 10:10), in connection with the appointed sacrifices (Leviticus 28:11-15); so that the month intended cannot, so far, i.e. fixed. As, however, the chief blowing of trumpets was on the first day of the seventh month (Leviticus 23:24), most commentators regard the psalm as composed for this occasion. There are some, however, as Hengstenberg, Professor Cheyne, and Professor Alexander, who consider it to be a Passover psalm. In the time appointed; rather, at the full moon; i.e. on the fifteenth day of the seventh month, when the Feast of Tabernacles was opened (see Numbers 29:12). Trumpets were probably blown then also. On our solemn feast day. The Feast of Tabernacles is called κατ ἐξοχὴν, "the feast," in many passages of the Old Testament (see Professor Cheyne's comment on this psalm, 'Book of Psalms,' p. 228).
For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob.
Verse 4. - For this was a statute for Israel, and a law of the God of Jacob; rather, this is a law (Kay, Cheyne, Revised Version). See the passages quoted in the preceding note.
This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony, when he went out through the land of Egypt: where I heard a language that I understood not.
Verse 5. - This he ordained in Joseph for a testimony. The special mention of "Joseph" here is strange. Professor Cheyne explains, "God appointed the Law to be valid in northern as well as southern Israel." Hengstenberg and Professor Alexander account for the expression by the pre-eminence of Joseph during the sojourn in Egypt. When he went out through the land of Egypt. When he (Joseph) went out over (or, across) the land," i.e. at the time of the Exodus. Where I heard a language that I understood not. It can scarcely be supposed that this clause belongs properly to ver. 5. It is rather an introduction to the monody wherewith the psalm (as it has come down to us) concludes - the mournful complaint of God against his people. So Professor Cheyne, who translates, "The discourse of no whom I had not known (i.e. of God) did I hear."
I removed his shoulder from the burden: his hands were delivered from the pots.
Verses 6-16. - The "discourse" is now given. It commences somewhat abruptly, and is, perhaps, itself a fragment, the beginning of which is lost. God reminds Israel of his past favours (vers. 6, 7), exhorts them to faithfulness (vers. 8, 9), promises them blessings (ver. 10), complains of their waywardness (vers. 11, 12), and finally makes a last appeal to them to turn to him, and recover his protection, before it is too late (vers. 13-16). Verse 6. - I removed his shoulder from the burden. In Egypt, burdens were borne upon the shoulder, either simply held upon it with both hands, or distributed between the two shoulders by means of a yoke (see Rawlinson's 'Herodotus,' vol. 2. p. 214). His hands were delivered from the pots; rather, from the basket; i.e. the basket in which the clay was carried before it was made into bricks.
Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee; I answered thee in the secret place of thunder: I proved thee at the waters of Meribah. Selah.
Verse 7. - Thou calledst in trouble, and I delivered thee (see Exodus 2:23; Exodus 3:7; Exodus 14:10, etc.). I answered thee in the secret place of thunder. The pillar of the cloud seems to be meant. In this, and from this, God answered the cry of his people (Exodus 14:24). I proved thee at the waters of Meribah (Exodus 17:7). The "selah" after these words marks a pause, during which the people addressed might reflect on the manifold mercies which God had vouchsafed to them in Egypt, in the wilderness, and elsewhere.
Hear, O my people, and I will testify unto thee: O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me;
Verse 8. - Hear, O my people (comp. vers. 11, 13). Israel is still "God's people," however rebellious (vers. 11, 12). God has not yet given them up. And I will testify unto thee; or, "protest unto thee" (Kay, Cheyne). O Israel, if thou wilt hearken unto me; or, "if thou wouldst but hearken unto me!"
There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god.
Verse 9. - There shall no strange god be in thee; neither shalt thou worship any strange god (comp; Exodus 20:3; Deuteronomy 5:7). Such worship had evidently begun, and required to be forbidden afresh.
I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.
Verse 10. - I am the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt. The reminder was continually needed (see Exodus 20:2; Leviticus 26:13; Deuteronomy 5:6; Hosea 12:9; Hosea 13:4). Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it (comp. 2 Kings 13:19). God's gifts, both temporal and spiritual, are proportioned to our eager longing for them. As Christ could not do his miracles in one place because of their unbelief (Mark 6:5, 6), so God cannot give lavishly unless we desire largely.
But my people would not hearken to my voice; and Israel would none of me.
Verse 11. - But my people would not hearken to my voice (comp. Psalm 78:10, 41, 56; 2 Kings 17:14; 2 Chronicles 36:15, 16). And Israel would none of me; literally, would not obey me (see the Prayer book Version).
So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust: and they walked in their own counsels.
Verse 12. - So I gave them up unto their own hearts' lust. God's Spirit will not always strive with men (Genesis 6:3). After a time, if they persist in evil courses and disobedience to his commands, he "gives them up," withdraws from them, leaves them to themselves, to the "lust," or rather "stubbornness" of their own hearts - to their own perverse wills and imaginations. And they walked in their own counsels (comp. Jeremiah 7:24). This result is inevitable. If God no longer guides their thoughts and enlightens their understandings, they can but follow their own foolish counsels, and the result cannot but be disastrous.
Oh that my people had hearkened unto me, and Israel had walked in my ways!
Verse 13. - Oh that my people had hearkened unto me! rather, would hearken unto me! (see Professor Driver's 'Hebrew Tenses,' § 145, and compare the Revised Version). And Israel had walked in my ways! rather would walk!
I should soon have subdued their enemies, and turned my hand against their adversaries.
Verse 14. - I should soon have subdued (rather, I should won subdue) their enemies. Israel is still surrounded by enemies, anxious for his destruction. God could subdue them and sweep them away in a moment, if he pleased; and would do so, if Israel would repent and return to him. The appeal is to the living Israel - the Israel of the psalmist's time, which is given one more chance of triumph over its enemies. And turned my hand against their adversaries. Logically, the two clauses should have been inverted, since the subjugation of Israel's enemies would be the effect of God's hand being turned against them.
The haters of the LORD should have submitted themselves unto him: but their time should have endured for ever.
Verse 15. - The haters of the Lord. Israel's enemies are always spoken of as God's enemies also (comp. Psalm 3:2, 7; Psalm 9:3; Psalm 68:1; Psalm 79:6, 7, etc.). They "hate" Jehovah (Psalm 21:8; Psalm 83:2), not merely as Israel's Protecter, but as the Source of all good, whereas they delight in evil. Should have submitted themselves unto him; rather, should submit themselves, or "should yield feigned obedience" (Authorized Version, margin). But their time (i.e. Israel's time) should have endured forever; rather, should endure.
He should have fed them also with the finest of the wheat: and with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee.
Verse 16. - He should have fed them also; rather, he should feed. With the finest of the wheat; literally, with the fat of the wheat (comp. Deuteronomy 32:14 and Psalm 147:14). And with honey out of the rock should I have satisfied thee; rather, would I satisfy thee. The expression, "honey out of the rock," is taken from Deuteronomy 32:13. It evidently means "honey of the best" - native honey, stored by the bees in clefts of the rocks. Of course, both the "wheat" and the "honey" are metaphors, which we are to regard as shadowing forth all temporal and spiritual blessings.