It is not by accident that these last words are not found in the collection of Psalms. The reason is indicated by the [Hebrew: naM] There is a prophetic element in the lyric poetry of David wheresoever it refers to the future destiny of his house; but this prophetic element rises, here, at the close of his life, to pure prophetic inspiration and utterance, which stand on an equal footing with the prophecy of Nathan in 2 Sam. vii., and claim an equal authority.
Ver.1. "And these are the last words of David. David, the son of Jesse, prophesies, and the man prophesies who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and sweet in the Psalms of Israel."
It is substantially the same thing, whether we understand: "the last words of David" or "the latter words of David" -- later in reference to xxi.1. For even Ps. xviii., which precedes in chap. xxii., belongs, according to its inscription and contents, to the last times of David; it is, as it were, "a grand Hallelujah with which he withdraws from the scene of life." But, at all events, there is a closer connection with that Psalm; in it, too, David has in view the future destiny of his race, and we have here, in the last words, the prophetic conclusion of the lyrical effusion there. From this connection with chap. xxii., the closer limitation of the "words" follows. We learn from it that holy words only can be meant. The solemn introduction, and the parallelism with the blessings of Jacob and Moses, fully agree with and confirm this our introductory remark regarding the chronological position of these "words." -- There can be no doubt that, in this introduction, there is a reference to Balaam's prophecy in Num. xxiv.3, -- and this goes far to prove how much David was occupied with the views which men of God had formerly opened up into future times: -- "And he took up his parable and said: Balaam the son of Beor prophesies, and the man who had his eyes shut, prophesies: He prophesies who hears the words of God, who sees the vision of the Almighty, falling down and having his eyes open." The remarks which we made on that passage find here also a strict application: [Pg 154] "Balaam begins with a simple designation of his person, and then, in the following members, adds designations of such qualities of this person as here come into consideration, and serve for affording a foundation to the [Hebrew: naM] with which he opens his discourse." As [Hebrew: naM] always has the signification, "word of God," "revelation," it can here be ascribed to David, as it was in the fundamental passage to Balaam, only in as far as the word has been received by, and communicated to, him. The [Hebrew: el], "upon," "over," stands here for "on high," -- those over whom David has been raised up being omitted in order to express the absolute sovereignty bestowed upon David, more, however, in his posterity, than in his own person. (Compare Ps. xviii.44: "Thou makest me the head of the heathen;" and in ver.48: "God who avengeth me, and subdueth people under me.") He who was raised up on high -- With the exception of the bodily ancestor and the lawgiver, of none under the Old Testament could this be with so much truth affirmed, as of David, the founder of the royal house, which, in all eternity, was to be the channel of blessings for the Congregation of the Lord, and to which, at last, all power in heaven and on earth was to be given. The anointed of the God of Jacob -- Such is David, not only as an individual, but also as the representative of his race; compare Ps. xviii.51. He is pre-eminently the anointed, the Christ of God. -- -[Hebrew: zmir] plur. [Hebrew: zmirit] signifies, according to derivation and usage, not song or hymn in general, but the hymn in the higher strain, the skilful, solemn song of praise; compare my commentary on Song of Sol. ii.12. David's Psalms are called [Hebrew: zmirvt] of Israel, because he sang them as the organ of the congregation, and because they were appointed to be used in public worship; compare Comment, on Psalms, vol. iii. p. vi. Sweet in Psalms of Israel here finds its place only on the supposition that David, in his Psalms, spoke in the Spirit, Matt. xxii.41-46; compare Commentary on Psalms, vol. iii. p. vii. viii. The most distinguished excellence in poetry which is [Pg 155] merely human cannot form a foundation for the assertion in ver.2. But if, on the other hand, David be an often times tried organ of the Spirit for the Church, it cannot surprise us that in ver.2 he even declares that, in the Spirit, he there foretells the future. Thus the [Hebrew: naM] in our verse also has a good foundation.
Ver.2. "The Spirit of the Lord spake to me, and His word is upon my tongue."
That [Hebrew: dbr] refers to the communication which David promulgates in the sequel, and not to other revelations which he had formerly received, appears from its relation to the [Hebrew: naM] in ver.1. We should lose the new revelation announced in ver.1, if ver.2, and, hence, ver.3 also -- for the [Hebrew: amr] there evidently resumes the [Hebrew: dbr] -- refer to divine revelations which David, or, as Thenius supposes, even some other person, had formerly received. -- [Hebrew: bi] is not "through me," for in that case the Participle would have been used instead of the Preterite; nor "in me," for that is contradicted by the parallel passages in which [Hebrew: dbr] occurs with [Hebrew: b]; but "into me," which is stronger than "to me," and marks the deeply penetrating power of the revelation by the Spirit; compare remarks on Hosea i.2. Such being the case, the Preterite is quite in its proper place; for the inward revelation, the [Hebrew: naM ihvh] precedes the communication -- the [Hebrew: naM dvd]. (On the whole verse, 1 Pet. i.11, 2 Pet. i.21, are to be compared.)
Ver.3. "The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me: a Ruler over men -- just; a Ruler -- fear of God."
The omission of the verb, "will be or rise," is quite suited to the concise and abrupt style of the divine word. The mention of God, the Rock of Israel, shows that the revelation has a reference to what is done for the good of the people of God, -- of His Church. For her good, the glorious Ruler shall be raised. (Compare the words, [Greek: antelabeto Israel paidos hautou], in Luke i.54, as also ver.68, and ii.32.) The appellation. Rock of Israel, indicates God's immutability, trustworthiness, and inviolable faithfulness; compare my comment, on Psalm xviii.3, 32-47. The connection betwixt Ps. xviii. and the "last words of David" here also clearly appears. The fundamental passage is Deut. xxxii.4. -- That men must be conceived of as the subjects of dominion, is proved by Ps. xviii.44, where David is made the head of nations, and people whom he has not known [Pg 156] serve him, -- and by ver.45, where the sons of the stranger do homage to him, -- and by ver.48: "Who subdues people under me." -- A Ruler -- fear of God, i.e., a Ruler who shall, as it were, be fear of God itself -- personified fear of God. We must here compare the expression, "This man is the peace," Mic. v.4, and, as to the substance of the expression. Is. xi.2, "And the Spirit of the Lord rests upon him ... the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord." We might be disposed to refer this exclusively to the person of the Messiah, especially when those Psalms are compared which refer to a personal Messiah. But Ps. xviii. -- which here receives, as it were, its prophetic seal -- and especially the relation of ver.3 and 4 to ver.5, where David speaks of his house, prove that the Ruler here is, primarily, only an ideal person, viz., the seed of David spoken of in Ps. xviii.51. Things so glorious can, however, be ascribed to it only with a reference to the august personage in whom that seed will centre at the end of days, -- the righteous Branch, whom the Lord will raise up unto David (Jer. xxiii.5), who executeth judgment and righteousness on earth, Jer. xxxiii.15. David knew too well what human nature is, and what is in man, to have expected any such thing from the collective body, as such.
Ver.4. "And as the light of the morning when the sun riseth, a mourning without clouds; by brightness, by rain, -- grass out of the earth."
In the first hemistich we have to supply: will be His appearance in its loveliness and saving importance. The morning elsewhere also, especially in the Psalms (compare remarks on Ps. lix.17; Song of Sol. iii.1), is used as the emblem of salvation. The condition of men before the appearance of the Ruler among them, is, in its destitution, like dark night. -- The brightness is that of the Ruler, as the spiritual Sun, the Sun of Salvation. (Compare Mal. iii.20 [iv.2], where righteousness is represented as the sun rising to those who fear God.) The rain -- the warm, mild rain, not the winter's rain which, in the Song of Sol. ii.11, and elsewhere, occurs as an emblem of affliction and judgment -- is the emblem of blessing (compare Is. xliv.3, where "rain" is explained by "blessing"). The grass, which springs up out of the earth by means of sunshine and rain, is emblematical of the fruits and effects of salvation. [Pg 157] (Compare Is. xlv.8, where, in consequence of the rain of salvation pouring down from the skies, the earth brings forth salvation and righteousness.) The passage in Ps. lxxii.6 is parallel, where Solomon says of his Antitype, "He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass, as showers watering the earth." The figure of the rain making fresh grass to spring up is there likewise employed to designate the blessings of the Messianic time.
Ver.5. "For is not thus my house with God? For He has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and kept; for all my salvation, and all pleasure, -- should He not make it to grow?"
The special revelation which David received at the close of his life (compare the remarks on [Hebrew: naM] in ver.1) is here connected with the fundamental promise in 2 Sam. vii., which was thereby anew confirmed to him. Those who, like De Wette and Thenius, mistake the correct sense of vers.3 and 4, are not a little perplexed by the "for" at the beginning of this verse, and attempt in vain to account for it. -- Thus, i.e., as it had been told in what precedes. -- [Hebrew: ervkh], "prepared," "ordered," forms the contrast to what is only half finished, indefinite, depending upon circumstances and conditions, admitting of provisions and exceptions. The extent to which all interposing obstacles were excluded, or rather, had been considered and calculated upon beforehand, appears especially from 2 Sam. vii.14, 15, according to which, even the most fatal of all interpositions -- the apostasy of the bearers of the covenant -- should not destroy the covenant, -- should not annul the gracious promise made to the race. Kept, i.e., firm, inviolable, because given by Him who keepeth covenant and mercy, Deut. vii.9; Dan. ix.4. In 1 Kings viii.25, Solomon prays, "And now, Lord God of Israel, keep with Thy servant David my father what Thou promisedst him when Thou saidst. There shall not be cut off unto thee a man from My sight to sit on the throne of Israel." The second "for" points out the cause of kept. All pleasure, i.e., all that is well-pleasing to me, all that my heart desires. The preceding [Hebrew: iwei] serves the purpose of qualifying it more definitely. The object of David's desires is, accordingly, his salvation, the glory of his house.
Ver.6. "And wickedness, like thorns, they will all be driven away; for not will any one take them into his hands."
The subject treated of in this verse is: the Ruler among men [Pg 158] in His relation to His enemies. To those He is as formidable as His appearance is blessed to those who surrender themselves to Him. In Ps. xviii. also, there is a celebration of the indomitable power which the Lord grants to David, His anointed, and to his seed against all their enemies; compare ver.38: "I pursue mine enemies and overtake them, and do not turn again till they are consumed; ver.39, I crush them and they cannot rise, they fall under my feet." In the cycle of Psalms from cxxxviii. to cxlv., David likewise speaks of the dangers which threaten his house from enemies, and the leading thought of Ps. ii. is: the Messiah as the conqueror of His enemies. The eyes of David were the more opened to this circumstance, the more he himself had had to contend against adversaries. -- [Hebrew: bliel] always means unworthiness in a moral point of view, "wickedness," "vileness." Wickedness is here used in the concrete sense = the wicked ones, the sons of wickedness, Deut. xiii.14. The wicked ones, the enemies of the Church, are compared to the thorns, on account of their pricking nature; and therefore their end is like that of thorns, they will be thrown aside like them. In Ezek. xxiv.28, after the judgment upon the neighbouring people has been proclaimed, it is said, "And there shall remain no more a pricking brier everywhere round about the house of Israel, where their enemies are, nor a grieving thorn;" compare Num. xxxiii.55; Song of Sol. ii.2; Is. xxvii.4; Nahum i.10. -- [Hebrew: mnd], the Partic. Hoph. of [Hebrew: nvd], "thrust out," "put to flight" (compare Ps. xxxvi.12), cannot be applied to the thorns, but only to the men. Like thorns, i.e., so that they become like thorns, of which the land is cleared. For not will any one take them into his hands -- Michaelis: Intractabiles sunt.
Ver.7. "And if any one toucheth them, he is filled with iron, and the staff of a spear; and they shall be utterly burnt with fire where they dwell."
The two members of vers.6 and 7 stand in an inverted relation to each other. In ver.6, we have, first, the punishment described, and then their hostile nature, by which the punishment was called forth. In ver.7, we have, first, the cause, and then the consequence. The thought in the first member is: every touch of them bears a hostile character. Iron -- instead of weapons fabricated of iron; comp.1 Sam. xvii.7; Job xx.24, xli.19 compared with vers.18, 20; Jer. xv.12. [Pg 159] [Hebrew: bwbt], literally, "in the dwelling" (compare Ps. xxiii.6, xxvii.4; Deut. xxx.20) instead of "where they dwell," shows that in their own borders they shall be visited and overtaken by retribution. [Hebrew: bwbt] cannot have the signification, "without delay," ascribed to it by Thenius.
Footnote 1: [Hebrew: tHt], "below," "beneath," "under," is often used adverbially, e.g. Gen. xlix.25. [Hebrew: el], in the signification "on high," occurs also in Hosea xi.7, -- less certainly in Hos. vii.16. For, according to 2 Chron. xxx.9, that passage may be explained; "they return, not to," i.e., there is the mere commencement of conversion, but not the attainment of the end. On [Hebrew: hvqM] Deut. xxviii.36 is to be compared.