<or Song for the sabbath day.>> It is a good thing to give thanks unto the LORD, and to sing praises unto thy name, O most High:
Verse 1. - It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord (comp. Psalm 147:1). By "a good thing" is meant that which is at ones right and pleasant. And to sing praises unto thy Name, O Most High. Israel's Lord, Jehovah, is also "the Most High over all the earth" (Psalm 83:18), and should at all times be thought of as both.
To shew forth thy lovingkindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night,
Verse 2. - To show forth thy loving kindness in the morning, and thy faithfulness every night. The suitableness of worship every morning and evening has been almost universally felt. The Mosaic Law provided for it by the establishment of the morning and evening sacrifice (Exodus 29:38, 39), with the accompanying ritual. Jewish piety added a noonday prayer (Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10), and Christian zeal established the "seven hours of prayer." Morning and evening still, however, remain, by common acknowledgment, the most appropriate times for worship.
Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery; upon the harp with a solemn sound.
Verse 3. - Upon an instrument of ten strings, and upon the psaltery. Some think that only one instrument is intended here, and translate, "Upon an instrument of ten strings, even upon the psaltery" (or, "the lute"). (On the character of the psaltery, see the comment on Psalm 33:2.) Upon the harp with a solemn sound. The reference is clearly to the public service of the temple, since in the private devotions of the faithful instruments were not likely to be used.
For thou, LORD, hast made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands.
Verse 4. - For thou, Lord, hast made me glad through thy work. It is difficult to say what "work" is intended. Some have supposed "the work of creation," as the psalm is one "for the sabbath" (see title); but perhaps the general "working" of God's providence in the world is more probable. (So Hengstenberg, Kay, and Cheyne.) I will triumph in the works of thy hands. A repetition for the sake of emphasis.
O LORD, how great are thy works! and thy thoughts are very deep.
Verse 5. - O Lord, how great are thy works! (comp. Psalm 40:5). Mighty and wonderful, i.e., are the ways of Providence. And thy thoughts are very deep (comp. Job 11:8).
A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this.
Verse 6. - A brutish man knoweth not; neither doth a fool understand this. A rude, uncultivated man has no conception of the wonderful depth of God's thoughts - the marvellousness of those counsels which underlie the general scheme of things, and make it what it is (comp. Romans 11:33, 34).
When the wicked spring as the grass, and when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; it is that they shall be destroyed for ever:
Verse 7. - When the wicked spring as the grass; i.e. "spring up" - "flourish" (see ver. 12). The difficulty is that which disturbed Job (Job 21:7-21) and Asaph (Psalm 73:2-15), viz. the prosperity of the wicked. The present writer, however, is not disturbed - he sees in their prosperous condition nothing but a prelude to their overthrow. And when all the workers of iniquity do flourish; or, "do blossom." It is that they shall be destroyed forever; literally, it is for their destruction forever (comp. Psalm 73:18-20).
But thou, LORD, art most high for evermore.
Verse 8. - But thou, Lord, art most high forevermore; rather, art on high; i.e. remainest seated upon thy throne, unaffected either by their efforts or by their fall.
For, lo, thine enemies, O LORD, for, lo, thine enemies shall perish; all the workers of iniquity shall be scattered.
Verse 9. - For, lo, thine enemies, O Lord, for, lo, thine enemies shall perish. Whatever else is uncertain, this at least is sure, that ultimately God's enemies will perish. The repetition adds the greatest force to the passage. All the workers of iniquity (comp. ver. 7) shall be scattered. All of them - every one (comp. Matthew 7:23, "Depart from me, ye that work iniquity").
But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn: I shall be anointed with fresh oil.
Verse 10. - But my horn shalt thou exalt like the horn of an unicorn; rather, of a wild ox. The Hebrew, like the Assyrian, reym, is certainly a species of wild cattle, whether the aurochs, or the bison, or the buffalo, may be doubted. The psalmist speaks in the name of Israel, or of God's faithful ones generally, and confidently predicts their exaltation to glory and honour simultaneously with the destruction of God's enemies. I shall be anointed with fresh oil. Oil was supposed to give vigour to the frame; and "fresh oil," or "green oil," would be the most efficient and the best.
Mine eye also shall see my desire on mine enemies, and mine ears shall hear my desire of the wicked that rise up against me.
Verse 11. - Mine eye also shall see my desire on mine enemies (comp. Psalm 54:7; Psalm 59:10). The "desire" is probably that expressed in Psalm 91:13. And mine ears shall hear my desire of the wicked that rise up against me. This is an unusual phrase, but sufficiently intelligible. Triumph over enemies is perceived both by the eye and by the ear.
The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
Verse 12. - The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree. To an Oriental the palm is the queen of trees. "Of all vegetable forms," says Humboldt, "the palm is that to which the prize of beauty has been assigned by the concurrent voice of nations in all ages" ('Aspects of Nature,' vol. 2. p. 20, Engl. trans.). Its stately growth, and graceful form, its perpetual verdure, its lovely and luxuriant fruit, together with its manifold uses (Strabo, 16:1, § 14), give it precedence over all other vegetable growths in the eyes that are accustomed to rest upon it. It is rather remarkable that, in the Old Testament, it is used as a figure for beauty only here and in Song of Solomon 7:7. Man, in his most flourishing growth, is ordinarily compared either to the cedar (2 Kings 14:9; Song of Solomon 5:15; Ezekiel 31:3-9; Amos 2:9, etc.)or the olive tree (Judges 9:8, 9; Psalm 52:8; Jeremiah 11:16; Hosea 14:6, etc.). He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon (see, besides the passages already quoted, 2 Kings 19:23; 2 Chronicles 2:8; Jeremiah 22:23; Zechariah 11:1).
Those that be planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God.
Verse 13. - Those that be planted in the house of the Lord; rather, Planted (or, Being planted) in the house of the Lord, they. This does not refer to the "trees" of the preceding verse, but to the "righteous," who are viewed as passing their days almost continually in the temple courts, and so as (in a certain sense) "planted" there. The passage has no bearing on the question whether the temple courts were or were not planted with trees. Shall flourish in the courts of our God (comp. Psalm 84:2, 10).
They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing;
Verse 14. - They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; i.e. "even when they are old, they shall still bring forth fruit" - they shall still glorify God by their good works. They shall be fat and fiourishing; literally, fat and green. The metaphor of ver. 12 is still kept up.
To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
Verse 15. - To show that the Lord is upright. The happy and flourishing old age of the righteous (ver. 14; comp. Psalm 91:16) is a strong indication of God's faithfulness and truth, showing, as its does, that he keeps his promises, and never forsakes those that put their trust in him (comp. Psalm 27:10; Psalm 37:25; Isaiah 41:17, etc.). He is my Rock - rather, that he is my Rock - and that there is no unrighteousness in him. Both clauses depend on the "show" of the preceding hemistich.