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THE PENTATEUCH

GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS 1.1-7.38 --- 8.1-11.47 --- 12.1-16.34--- 17.1-27.34--- NUMBERS 1-10--- 11-19--- 20-36--- DEUTERONOMY 1.1-4.44 --- 4.45-11.32 --- 12.1-29.1--- 29.2-34.12 --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- PSALMS 1-36--- ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL 1-7 ---DANIEL 8-12 --- MICAH ---NAHUM--- HABAKKUK---ZEPHANIAH --- HAGGAI ---ZECHARIAH --- MALACHI --- THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW ---THE GOSPEL OF MARK--- THE GOSPEL OF LUKE --- THE GOSPEL OF JOHN --- THE ACTS OF THE APOSTLES --- READINGS IN ROMANS --- 1 CORINTHIANS 1-7 --- 8-16 --- 2 CORINTHIANS 1-7 --- 8-13 -- -GALATIANS --- EPHESIANS --- COLOSSIANS --- 1 THESSALONIANS --- 2 THESSALONIANS --- 1 TIMOTHY --- 2 TIMOTHY --- TITUS --- HEBREWS 1-6 --- 7-10 --- 11-13 --- JAMES --- 1 & 2 PETER --- JOHN'S LETTERS --- JUDE --- REVELATION

--- THE GOSPELS & ACTS

COMMENTARY ON THE PSALMS

Book Two (Psalms 42-72).

The Book of Psalms divides up into five sections, each of which ends with a special 'blessing, which are as follows:

  • Book 1. Psalms 1-41, which ends with 'blessed be YHWH the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting, Amen and Amen.'
  • Book 2. Psalms 42-72 which ends with 'Blessed be YHWH God, the God of Israel, Who only does wonderful things. And blessed be His glorious name for ever, and let the whole earth be filled with His glory. Amen and Amen.'
  • Book 3. Psalms 73-89 which ends with 'Blessed be YHWH for evermore. Amen and Amen.'
  • Book 4. Psalms 90-106 which ends with 'Blessed be YHWH the God of Israel, from everlasting even to everlasting, and let all the people say, "Amen". Praise you YHWH.'
  • Book 5. Psalms 107-150 which ends with 'Let everything that has breath praise YHWH'. Praise you YHWH.'

    In this second book of Psalms it is noticeable that the greater emphasis throughout, as compared with the first section, is on God as ELOHIM. But this, while noticeable, must not be over-exaggerated for the name YHWH certainly does appear fairly often (42.8; 46.7, 8 11; 47.2, 5; 48.1, 8; 50.1; 54.6; 55.16, 22; 56.10; 58.6; 59.3, 5, 8; 64.10; 68.4 (YH); 68.7, 16, 20; 69.13, 16, 31, 33; 70.5; 71.1, 5, 16; 72.18, (as also does 'Lord' - ADONAI), and it should be noted that the name YHWH appears in the verse which ends the section (72.18), although there specifically associated with ELOHIM, for there He is YHWH ELOHIM. So in the end this section also is dedicated to YHWH. It is only in contrast with the first section (1-41), where YHWH predominates, that we particularly notice the change of title/Name.

    This Second Book contains Psalms from two main sources, firstly from a collection entitled 'of the sons of Korah' (42-49), and the remainder from a collection entitled 'of David'. Apart from these there are two which are simply dedicated 'for the Chief Musician' (66; 67), one headed 'of Asaph' (50; see next section), and the final one which is entitled 'of Solomon'. Interestingly the section ends with the note 'the prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended' (72.20). But this would simply seem to refer to the fact that the group which are 'of David' in this particular Book is now being concluded, for a number of Psalms of David will also be found in later sections. It might, however, have seemed to add strength to the idea that, at least in this section 'of David' is intended to indicate authorship, were it not for the fact that the final Psalm before the note is actually 'of Solomon' (the son of David) which might suggest the opposite, i.e. that a Psalm by Solomon could easily be seen as 'a prayer of 'David' (of the Davidic house).

    The sons of Korah were Levites who had important responsibilities, first with respect to the Tabernacle and then with respect to the Temple. Originally they acted as sentinels for the camp of the Levites, then as warders of the sacred Tent erected by David to contain the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH when it was brought into Jerusalem, and then as doorkeepers of the Temple, a position that they resumed on their return from Babylon (1 Chronicles 9.17 ff; 26.1 ff; Nehemiah 11.19).

    They were also prominent in connection with sacred song in the Temple. Heman, who was one of the three principle musicians appointed by David, was a 'son of Korah' (1 Chronicles 6.31-33), and his sons were leaders of fourteen of the twenty four courses of musicians in the Temple (1 Chronicles 25.4 ff). In the time of Jehoshaphat, along with the sons of Kohath, they are mentioned for their singing role. There is, however, no mention of this singing role after the Exile.

    Some of their Psalms certainly breathe a spirit of strong devotion to the Temple, and of joy in its services, as we might expect, and they refer to the city of Jerusalem as the city which He has chosen for His own dwellingplace, and where He reigns as King. But they are certainly not unique in this, and their Psalms contain much else besides. It would indeed be wrong to narrowly categorise them as a specific type, for they include intensely personal Psalms (42-43; 84), national Psalms (44; 46-48; 85), and a miscellany of Psalms with a distinctive flavour (45; 49; 87; 88). The ones in this section (42-49) appear mainly to date from the period of the first Temple (note e.g. the mention of the king in 45; 46; 48), and there are in fact no grounds for dating any of these Psalms later than this period. The consequence of this is that we might well call these first two sections of the Psalms 'the hymnbook of the first Temple', although this must not be seen as excluding some later Psalms as also being sung in the first Temple. They were, however, later clearly incorporated into the larger collection which includes Exilic and post-Exilic Psalms.

    Psalms 42-43.

    It is probable that we should see Psalms 42-43 as one Psalm separated for liturgical reasons. Rarely for a psalm, Psalm 43 has no heading, and it contains the same refrain as we find repeated in Psalm 42 in slightly different ways,

    'Why are you cast down, O my soul?
    And why are you disquieted within me?
    Hope you in God,
    For I will yet praise him,
    Who is the help of my countenance,
    And my God.'
    .

    It also fits the general balance of the whole. However, it is not a matter of great importance for it make no difference to what the two Psalms have to say to us. We will thus be looking at them together.

    These refrains divide the Psalms up into three sections:

    • 1). In the first section he expresses his longings to once again be in the House of God, and he brings to memory past times in the House of God which are intended to encourage him. God will surely not forget these times. Why then should he be cast down, for God will surely ensure what is for His own wellbeing (for the health of His countenance), His servant's renewed praise (42.1-5).
    • 2). In the second section he has become more aware of the pressures on him, but his confidence has grown as he recognises that in spite of all God Himself is his rocky fortress, and he need not therefore be cast down because God is the One Who make his countenance healthy and is his God (42.6-11).
    • 3). In the third section he is confident of God's coming deliverance through His light and truth, and looks forward to again worshipping God in His house. And once again he need not therefore be cast down because God is the One Who make his countenance healthy and is his God (43.1-5). Heading.

      For the Chief Musician. Maschil of the sons of Korah.

      The meaning of Maschil in this context is not certain. It is used to describe a number of Psalms. But the word maschil means 'understanding'. It has been variously interpreted as meaning, 'a teaching Psalm' (although that does not appear to fit all its uses), 'a meditation', bringing understanding, or a 'skilful Psalm' indicating a complicated setting.

      The chief musician. or choirmaster, was responsible for the music in the Temple. For the sons of Korah see the introduction to this section.

      The Psalmist Describes His Longing Again To Know The Presence of God, Especially As It Was Known In The Assembly Of God People. But He Then Comforts Himself With The Thought That He Can Remember Him Wherever He Is And That One Day God Will Bring Him Back To His House So That He May Praise Him There.

      It is clear from the Psalm that the writer is somehow prevented from coming to the House of God, and so enjoying His presence in fellowship with His people. He would appear to be in North West Jordan near Mount Hermon (verse 6). It is not really possible from this information to determine a real life situation to be found in Scripture. We have indeed no way of knowing who he was. All we know is that he was prevented from coming to the House of God, and that he found this situation very distressing. But it must be noted that his distress lay in the fact that this prevented him from enjoying the deep experience of God that he had found there, not just in missing out on festal occasions. It is a Psalm for all who love God and find themselves in isolated situations.

      42.1-2

      'As the hind pants after the water brooks,
      So pants my soul after you, O God.
      My soul thirsts for God, for the living God:
      When shall I come and see the face of God?'

      He commences by describing the great longing that he has to enjoy the presence of God, and compares it with the gentle, timorous hind (the verb is feminine) which, in a season of drought, pants and longs for water with its tongue hanging out (compare Joel 1.20 - 'for the animals in the wild pant to you, for the water brooks are dried up'. See also Psalm 63.1). So in the same way does the Psalmist long after God, the living God. And he wonders how long it will be before he can again enjoy entering His presence in the company of His people.

      The idea of the living God as the One Who satisfies the thirst of His people appears constantly in Scripture. See Isaiah 55.1-3; Jeremiah 2.13; 17.13; 36.8-19; John 4.10-14.

      'See the face of God.' To enter into God's House worshipping with His people was for him to see the face of God, to be aware of His presence, and to know that He was there. And he longed for the experience again.

      42.3

      'My tears have been my food day and night,
      While they continually say to me,
      Where is your God?'

      Indeed so powerful are his feelings that he describes himself as weeping day and night so as to satisfy his emotional state, because his enemies taunt him continually about the fact that God does not help him (compare verse 10). This might suggest that even in his present condition he had been testifying about the greatness and splendour of his God.

      43.4

      'These things I remember,
      And pour out my soul upon me,
      How I was wont to go regularly with the throng,
      And walked in procession with them to the house of God,
      With the voice of joy and praise,
      A festive crowd keeping holyday.'

      The idea here is not that he just remembers the joys of the past, but that he also makes it quite clear to himself. His soul, as it were, speaks to his inner heart. And he brings home to himself the joy of his regular experiences at the three great feasts of Israel, when he had regularly gone with the crowd of worshippers and had walked in procession with them to the House of God, crying out with joy and praise. It was a festive crowd keeping holyday. It is this very thought, with its confidence and certainty in the power and goodness of God, that now causes him to lift himself up. Should a man who has a God like he has mope? With a God like Israel's, past blessings are a guarantee of future glory.

      42.5

      'Why are you cast down, O my soul?
      And why are you disquieted within me?
      Hope you in God,
      For I will yet praise him
      For the help of his countenance.

      And so he rebukes himself and speaks to his inner soul, and asks it why it is disquieted within him. He reminds himself that because he serves the living God (verse 2) he can have confident hope in God, knowing that God will come to his aid. He is sure therefore that one day he will once again be found in His House praising Him, because God will look on him with favour (give him the help of His countenance) and will therefore ensure his final restoration.

      42.6-7

      'O my God, my soul is cast down within me,
      Therefore do I remember you from the land of the Jordan,
      And the Hermons, from the hill Mizar.
      Deep calls to deep at the noise of your downpourings,
      All your waves and your billows are gone over me.

      His disquietude is not, however, totally removed by his previously expressed confidence. The struggle goes on within him. And now he calls on God to witness the cast down state of his soul. Nevertheless this causes him to remember God, even from where he is. But even this only makes him think of overflowing waters. His faith is fluctuating between confidence and despair.

      The description suggests that he is in the north west part of land around the River Jordan, near Mount Hermon ('the Hermons' probably refers either to the Hermon range, or possibly to the three peaks at different levels discernible on Mount Hermon itself). He would appear to be on the hill Mizar ('the little mountain'). The identity of this latter is not known. Possibly he had been taken by bandits, or by marauding invaders, and was held in one of their mountain strongholds, but he certainly felt a long way away from Jerusalem.

      He describes his emotions very powerfully. He feels as though he is being drowned at sea in a storm, 'all your waves and billows are gone over me'. Perhaps he was familiar with fishing boats on the Sea of Galilee where violent storms tended to erupt. If so, he may well have witnessed the drowning of his fellow countrymen at sea. He might also have had in mind the story of the Flood, or have called to mind what had happened to the Egyptian forces at the Red Sea. This was what happened to those of whom God disapproved. Whichever it was he felt as though he himself was almost drowning in torrents of water, as though his end was not far away.

      Others see in it a reference to the waters of Chaos which constantly threaten mankind. But there is nothing about the description to especially suggest this. He may well, however, have been able to hear the sound of powerful, rushing waterfalls nearby, and have seen them as calling to each other to drown him in their torrents as he is 'caught' between them ('deep calls to deep'), especially if it was at the time of the winter rains when such torrents would pour down in majestic fashion from Mount Hermon and other mountains, before flowing down to swell the waters of the Sea of Galilee. Flood water would be very much in mind. Possibly it was a combination of a number of these factors, brought to mind by the raging torrents and waterfalls caused by the winter rains, that made him think in these terms. But the final point is that he is drowning in despair.

      42.8-10 'Yet in the daytime YHWH used to command his lovingkindness,

      And in the night his song was with me,
      Even a prayer to the God of my life.
      I will say to God my rock, Why have you forgotten me?
      Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
      With crushing in my bones,
      My adversaries reproach me,
      While they continually say to me,
      Where is your God?'

      But he thinks back to the days when in the daytime YHWH used to command His covenant love, while in the night time he would remember God's songs, which contained a prayer to the God Who had given him life. They had been happy and secure days when it had seemed that nothing could ever go wrong. Surely then God had not now forgotten him. Thus he determines to buck himself up, and to ask God, Whom he sees as his rock and fortress (no doubt having in mind the craggy fortress in which he is being held) why He has forgotten him, and has allowed him to find himself in this predicament. Why should he be living in mourning at the oppression of his captors, which makes him feel as if he is being crushed. Why should God allow his adversaries to reproach him, as they continually say to him, 'Where is your God?' (compare verse 3).

      Note the mention of YHWH. His good memories have brought back the thought that God is his covenant God.

      The point here is that he will not allow the circumstances to make him forget that God is his Rock, and thus forget about God's goodness, and willingness to act on his behalf.

      42.11

      'Why are you cast down, O my soul?
      And why are you disquieted within me?
      Hope you in God,
      For I will yet praise him,
      Who is the help of my countenance,
      And my God.

      So once again he calls on his soul, and demands to know why it should be so disquieted within him. Rather should he hope in God, for he is confident that one day he will again praise God in His House, and this because God is the One Who enables him to lift up his face, and is his God. Thus he knows that He cannot finally let him down.

      43.1-2

      'Judge me, O God,
      And plead my cause against an ungodly nation,
      Oh deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.
      For you are the God of my strength,
      Why have you cast me off?
      Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?'

      He calls on God to judge him, with a view to vindicating him because of his love for Him, and to plead his cause before the godless nation which holds him. He seeks to be delivered from the hand of the deceitful and unjust man who represents that nation. They do not walk in God's ways and therefore God must surely finally deliver him (who does walk in God's ways) from their hands. For He is the God of his strength (and thus his rocky fortress).

      So he again asks (compare 42.9) why God has seemingly cast him off, and allows him to go in mourning because of the oppression of his enemies.

      43.3-4

      'Oh send out your light and your truth,
      Let them lead me,
      Let them bring me to your holy hill,
      And to your tabernacles.
      Then will I go to the altar of God,
      To God my exceeding joy,
      And on the harp will I praise you,
      O God, my God.'

      Perhaps he has in mind here the pillar of light that had led God's people from Egypt, and the light and truth revealed at Sinai. It was by these manifestations of God that Israel had been delivered. So now he wants God to act in the same way on his behalf, leading him back to God's holy hill and to His tabernacles (this latter may suggest the time of David when there were two tabernacles, one in Hebron and one in Jerusalem that held the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH. Or it may simply have in mind the Temple as the dwelling place of God seen in plural majesty). Then he will again be able to go to the altar of God, to God Who is his great joy, and will be able to praise him on the harp because He is God his God.

      Alternately the thought is that in the end God's light and truth will always prevail, so that it must result in the deliverance of His people. (Possibly also he sees the armies of Israel as representing God's light and truth). But the point is that once the God of light and truth comes to deliver him nothing will be able to prevent his release, for light and truth must always prevail. It is a salutary reminder that our salvation also is totally due to the coming of One Who was the Light and the Truth (John 8.12; 14.6).

      43.5

      'Why are you cast down, O my soul?
      And why are you disquieted within me?
      Hope you in God,
      For I will yet praise him,
      Who is the help of my countenance,
      And my God.'

      This final truth has confirmed his faith and made him sure of his deliverance. Thus he can with even more confidence call on his soul and ask it why is it so disquieted simply because of these troubles that have beset him. Let it hope in God. For he knows that God must eventually release him so that he may yet go to the House of God to praise Him, for God is the one who is his constant aid and sustainer, and is his God.

      Psalm 44.

      Heading.

      'For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. Maschil

      The meaning of Maschil in this context is not certain. It is used to describe a number of Psalms. But the word maschil means 'understanding'. It has been variously interpreted as meaning, 'a teaching Psalm' (although that does not appear to fit all its uses), 'a meditation', thus bringing understanding, or a 'skilful Psalm' indicating a complicated setting.

      The chief musician. or choirmaster, was responsible for the music in the Temple. For 'the sons of Korah' see the introduction to this whole section.

      The basis of the Psalm, which is a lament because God has allowed them to be defeated in warfare, is as to why God has failed to fight on their side and give them victory as He had done in past times. It claims that the people have been faithful to God's covenant, and yet that in spite of that God has failed to help them so that they find themselves in extremities. And it ends with an appeal to God to reverse the situation. There is no real evidence in it as to when it was written, but its position in the Second Book of Psalms would suggest an early date rather than a late one, and it is clear that it was regularly sung because such occasions kept reoccurring. It is thus an assurance that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

      In a similar way it contains encouragement for us when we cannot understand why God allows us to endure trials, even though we have not specifically failed Him in any way that we can recall, for it demonstrates that such circumstances have often come on the people of God in the past and must therefore be expected. It is the common experience of God's people. It is not so much therefore that we have outwardly failed to observe His covenant, as that we have allowed our faith to fall to a low level, as with the church at Ephesus which had lost its first love (Revelation 2.1-6), so that we have been needing a jolt to get us back to truly trusting in Him.

      A Description Of What God Has Done For His People In The Past (44.1-3).

      The Psalmist first calls to mind how it was God Who gave His people victory when they initially took possession of the land of Canaan.

      44.1

      'We have heard with our ears, O God,
      Our fathers have told us,
      What work you did in their days,
      In the days of old.

      The people call to God and describe what they have learned from their fathers in the past, of how God had acted for them in days of old. Each year at their festivals these things would be recalled, and read out to them as a reminder of God's graciousness in the past, and especially so at the end of the seven year cycle. Compare Exodus 23.14-17; 24.7; Deuteronomy 16.16; also note Deuteronomy 31.11-13, 24-28.

      44.2

      'You drove out the nations with your hand,
      But them you planted,
      You afflicted the peoples,
      But them you spread abroad.

      On the one hand He had driven out the nations with His hand, on the other He had planted and established His own people in their place. On the one hand He had afflicted the peoples, and on the other He had spread His own people abroad throughout the land.

      The picture is possibly of a tree which is firmly planted, and then grows and spreads out its leafy branches (compare 80.8-11). The idea of His people being 'planted' is a common one in Scripture (e.g. Exodus 15.17; 2 Samuel 7.10). It is applied in Isaiah 61.3 to those who will be restored to God by the coming Anointed Prophet, 'that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of YHWH', compare Matthew 15.13 where those who are not of the Father's planting will be rooted up.

      44.3

      'For they did not get the land in possession by their own sword,
      Nor did their own arm save them,
      But your right hand, and your arm, and the light of your countenance,
      Because you were favourable to them.

      And it was God Who had done it. For it was not by their sword that they took possession of the land, nor as a result of the exercise of the strength of their own arm that they were saved. Rather it was God's right hand, and His arm, and the fact that He was looking on them with love and favour, that was responsible for their success.

      The thing that stood out to them in their history was the amazing way that time and again God had openly acted on their behalf when they themselves were in dire straits.

      The Psalmist Expresses His General Confidence In the Fact That God Will In The Future Fight For Them And Act On Their Behalf As He Has In The Past (44.4-8).

      The Psalmist speaks in the singular as well as in the plural, and speaks of 'my sword', which suggests that he is the king. But here he allots the supreme Kingship to God, and calls on Him to act as their King and deliver His people. This was part of a King's responsibility. He points out that he is putting all his trust in Him.

      44.4-5

      'You are my King, O God,
      Command deliverances for Jacob.
      Through you will we push down our adversaries,
      Through your name will we trample upon under those who rise up against us.'

      Addressing God as 'my King', he calls on Him to exercise His divine power and 'command' deliverances for Israel (Jacob). Once God has done that he has no doubt that through Him and His mighty power His people will be able to push down their adversaries, as a wild ox pushes down its foes with its horns, and that through His Name they will be able to trample on those who rise against them, as the wild ox tramples its foes beneath its feet.

      'Through your Name.' The name was seen as expressing the full attributes and character of the One named.

      44.6-8

      'For I will not trust in my bow,
      Nor will my sword save me.
      But you have saved us from our adversaries,
      And have put them to shame who hate us.
      In God have we made our boast all the day long,
      And we will give thanks to your name for ever. [Selah

      He is not prepared to trust to any weapon of his own, neither sword or bow, for he knows the power of his enemies, but his trust will be in God, Who has in the past saved His people from their adversaries, and has put to shame those who hate them. Thus it is in God that they have boasted all the day long, and it is their intention to give thanks to Him for ever. Their whole confidence is in Him. (It is this that makes it so surprising to him that they have faced defeat at the hands of their enemies).

      'Selah.' A pause in the music, possibly indicating 'think of that'.

      In View Of Their Trust In God They Cannot Understand Why Therefore They Have Faced Defeat At The Hands Of Their Enemies So That Some Of His People Have Been Taken Captive And Are Now Slaves In The Hands of Their Enemies, While The Remainder Of The Nation Is Dishonoured By What Has Happened (44.9-16).

      44.9-10

      'But now you have cast us off, and brought us to dishonour,
      And you do not go forth with our hosts.
      You make us to turn back from the adversary,
      And those who hate us take spoil for themselves.

      It is clear that they have received a resounding defeat at the hands of their enemies, and that this has shaken the king's confidence in God (verse 15). This would suggest that it followed a long period when they had been triumphant in all their battles. But now there had been a reverse, and it was clear that God appeared to have washed His hands of them and brought dishonour on them.

      In his view this could only mean that God had not gone with the army into battle, and had not given them the strength to face the enemy. The result was that they had fled before the enemy, leaving them to take what spoil they would.

      44.11-12

      'You have made us like sheep appointed for food,
      And have scattered us among the nations.
      You sell your people for nothing,
      And have not increased your wealth by their price.

      As a consequence the enemy had been able to slaughter them, like sheep are slaughtered for food, and had been able to take many captives who had been scattered among the nations. This suggests that they had been fighting an alliance of nations. Alternately it many signify that so many had been taken prisoner that the surplus were sold on as slaves to other nations.

      And what has God gained by it? Absolutely nothing. He has sold them for nothing, and is no better off than He was before. In this we find a clue to what has happened. Their faith in God had become based on the assumption that God blessed and delivered them because it was to His benefit, rather than because they were truly living in accordance with His will. Seeing themselves as His prized possession they had allowed the keen edge of their dedication to Him to diminish on the grounds that He would still look after them whatever they did.

      44.13

      You make us a reproach to our neighbours,
      A scoffing and a derision to those who are round about us.
      You make us a byword among the nations,
      A shaking of the head among the peoples.

      The consequence of what has happened is that their enemies are gloating. Their neighbours are reproaching them ('Where is your God?'). They are scoffing at them and deriding them. They had made such boasts in their God that their neighbours saw what had happened to them as demonstrating their folly. They had become a byword, among the nations, who were shaking their heads at them because of what they saw as their foolishness in making such a big thing of their God.

      44.15-16

      All the day long is my dishonour before me,
      And the shame of my face has covered me,
      For the voice of him who reproaches and blasphemes,
      By reason of the enemy and the avenger.

      And it especially reflected on the king. He was shamed by what had happened, and the dishonour of it was with him all the day long. He could not get over it. And the shame reflected on his face covered his whole being. He was totally ashamed from head to foot. For all around him he heard those who reproached him, and even reproached God, because of the avenging enemy who had so dealt with them. Their utter defeat was hard to face.

      What Is More The Psalmist Cannot Understand Why It Is, For In His View They Have Been Faithful To His Covenant And Have Walked In His Way (44.17-19).

      44.17-19

      'All this is come upon us, yet have we not forgotten you,
      Nor have we dealt falsely in your covenant.
      Our heart is not turned back,
      Nor have our steps declined from your way,
      That you have sore broken us in the place of jackals,
      And covered us with deep gloom.'

      What is most puzzling to the Psalmist is that he can think of no reason why it has happened. They have not forgotten God (they have fulfilled all their cultic responsibilities), as far as they are aware they have not dealt falsely in His covenant (they have obeyed what they saw to be its precepts), their heart has not turned back from Him (a slight exaggeration in view of the reference above to 'blasphemers'), nor have they ceased walking in His way. Why then has He so sorely broken them in the waste places (where jackals live) and covered them with such deep gloom?

      There is an indication of complacency here. When men begin to think that their lives are exemplary it is usually a sign of spiritual complacency. Those who walk in His light are constantly aware of sin (1 John 1.7-10). Thus this may very well explain exactly what has happened. He may have been saying to them by it, 'you say I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing, and do not know that are wretched; miserable, poor, blind and naked' (Revelation 3.17).

      'Deep gloom.' The Hebrew is 'tslmwth'. The MT points as tsalmaweth (shadow of death), but such compounds are rare in Hebrew apart from in names. It is probable therefore that the waw is to be seen as an ancient vowel and the pointing to be seen as tsalmuth (deep gloom). This does not alter the ancient text, only the MT pointing which was included in the text well into the New Testament era, and is not 'inspired'.

      The Psalmist Now Admits That Possibly They Have Been At Fault (44.20-22).

      44.20-22

      'If we have forgotten the name of our God,
      Or spread forth our hands to a strange god,
      Will not God search this out?
      For he knows the secrets of the heart.
      Yes, for your sake are we killed all the day long,
      We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.'

      The Psalmist now admits the possibility that in a sense they have forgotten what God is, that is, they have forgotten 'the Name of God'. He does it in the form of a question. If they have done so, or if they have worshipped a strange god, will not God search it out? Will He not be aware of what they have done? For after all He knows the secrets of the heart.

      And his answer is, yes, that is what has happened. That is why some of His people are even now facing constant harrying, and are still being killed like sheep for the slaughter (compare verse 11). It is clear now that God does have something against them. They have left their first love. They are no longer truly glorying in Him as their Sovereign Lord as they should.

      Awoken Himself To The True Situation He Now Calls On Their Sovereign Lord To Awaken And Rise Up And Help Them (44.23-26).

      44.23-26

      'Awake, why do you sleep, O Lord?
      Arise, do not cast us off for ever.
      Why do you hide your face,
      And forget our affliction and our oppression?
      For our soul is bowed down to the dust,
      Our body cleaves to the earth.
      Rise up for our help,
      And redeem us for your lovingkindness' sake.

      He now calls on God as their 'Sovereign Lord' to awaken out of sleep, and act on their behalf. He asks Him to arise so that they may not be cast off for ever. This is not a rebuke but a recognition that God may act when He will. He does not really think that He is asleep, but simply behaving as though He were. The change from 'God' to 'Lord' (adonai) may indicate a recognition of the need for a new change of heart. They have been neglecting His Lordship.

      Remembering how he had previously described the light of God's countenance as having been turned towards His people at the conquest (verse 3), he asks why He is not doing the same now. Why does He now hide His face from them? Why does he forget their affliction and oppression? It is clear that the enemy are still active in the surrounding countryside, and that they are at the very end of their resources, for the soul bowed down to the dust, and the body cleaving to the earth are indications of total defeat. Compare the description of the serpent in Genesis 3.14. Thus their only hope is in their God.

      And so he prays that their Sovereign Lord will now rise up and give them aid, and will for the sake of His own covenant love (compare Exodus 34.7-8) now redeem them. Their whole hope is in Him and they are looking to Him.

      Psalm 45.

      Heading.

      'For the Chief Musician; set to Shoshannim. A Psalm of the sons of Korah. Maschil. A Song of loves.'

      Again we have a psalm for the choirmaster set to the tune Shoshannim ('lilies'). In the Song of Solomon 2.16; 6.2-3 the place of lilies was the place for love, and so the name of the tune fits the theme. As previously it is a Maschil and is 'of the sons of Korah' (see introduction to Book 2). And it is a song of 'loves', a wedding song, for it deals with the marriage between the Davidic king and his bride. The word used here for 'loves' always indicates a high and holy love. In practise the king and his bride may well never have previously met, for this great occasion suggests a political marriage, as does the exhortation to the bride, so that the love is anticipated rather than real.

      The splendour of the occasion fits well with Solomon, and initially this psalm may well be describing the time when he was united with his Egyptian bride, the daughter of Pharaoh. But the king is undoubtedly addressed in terms reminiscent of the promises to David of the coming King from his house Who would rule the world, and be established on God's throne (2 Samuel 7.12-16; Psalm 2). Thus the Psalm looks forward also to the Coming King, and we must also therefore find within it an indication of the coming of the Messiah. Indeed the Aramaic Targum paraphrases verse 2 as, 'Your beauty O King Messiah exceeds that of the children of men, a spirit of prophecy is bestowed on your lips'.

      The Psalmist Indicates the Joy With Which He Writes (45.1)

      45.1

      'My heart overflows with a goodly matter;
      I speak the things which I have made touching the king.
      My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.'

      It is clear from these words that that the writer was almost overwhelmed at the occasion as he considered his subject matter, the king dressed in all his finery and his jewels, the magnificence of the decorated palace, the array of queens and princesses and the glory of his queenly bride.

      He recognises that he has a goodly matter to write about, and his heart overflows at the thought. He is also conscious that he will be speaking about things which he has formulated which concern his sovereign, a thought which fills him with awe. And thus his tongue flows smoothly like the pen of a capable and willing writer.

      A Description of The King's Glory (45.2-7).

      His description of the bridegroom's glory follows a carefully constructed pattern.

      • 1). Firstly he describes the king's splendour (verse 2). He is fairer than the children of men, granted wisdom by God and blessed by God for ever. This was no doubt the nation's view of Solomon, and it is even more true of the even greater 'Son of David'. He is the fairest among ten thousand, received directly the wisdom of the Father, and is truly from everlasting to everlasting.
      • 2). Secondly he is a mighty warrior on behalf of truth and meekness and righteousness (verses 3-4). This was initially true of Solomon until he lapsed, and it is permanently and everlastingly true of the greater than Solomon (Matthew 12.42).
      • 3). Thirdly his arrows are sharp and effective (verse 5). No doubt Solomon like all great Overlords would attend at the battlefield and fire his bow so that he could be lauded for having taken part in the fighting. (A similar picture is found of the Great King of Assyria on Assyrian inscriptions - compare Isaiah 37.33). But the greater than Solomon would Himself be a polished arrow in God's quiver (Isaiah 49.2). The arrow of His word would be sharp and true.
      • 4). His throne is the very throne of God (verses 6-7). In the case of Solomon it was established by God, and Solomon was to be His righteous representative before His people, while in the case of the Coming One He Himself would share God's throne, and would indeed be God upon that throne.

        The King's Splendour (45.2).

        45.2

        'You are fairer than the children of men,
        Grace is poured into your lips,
        Therefore God has blessed you for ever.'

        'You are fairer than the children of men.' David himself appears to have been a splendid looking man (1 Samuel 16.12), a trait which he passed on to his children (consider Absalom - 2 Samuel 14.25). Thus while flattering this was probably not totally untrue. And dressed in his royal finery he must well have seemed so, especially to his admirers.

        'Grace is poured into your lips.' This may indicate that he was well known for the gracious way in which he spoke to people (compare Proverbs 22.11), or it may have reference to the special gift of wisdom which God gave to him after his coronation (1 Kings 3.5-15).

        'Therefore God has blessed you for ever.' The God-given gifts above stress that God has blessed him, and his wisdom became a legend that was never forgotten. And he was blessed because of them. We still speak of 'the wisdom of Solomon'. But primarily in mind here is the promise of the everlastingness of his house. Kingship would belong to his house for ever (2 Samuel 7.13, 16, 25, 29; Psalm 2; 18.50; 89.2 ff).

        These words even more were descriptive of the Messiah when He came. He grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and men (Luke 2.52), and on the Mount of Transfiguration His full beauty was made known (Mark 9.2-8). Men wondered at the gracious words that came from His lips (Luke 4.22). And He was 'over all, God blessed for ever' (Romans 9.5).

        2). The King, A Mighty Warrior (4.3-4).

        45.3-4

        Gird your sword upon your thigh, O mighty one,
        Your glory and your majesty.
        And in your majesty ride on prosperously,
        Because of truth and meekness and righteousness,
        And your right hand will teach you terrible things.'

        All kings were supposed to be mighty warriors, and certainly sought to depict themselves as such. Even when they did not lead their troops into action they would regularly appear on the battlefield and loose an arrow at the enemy in order to impress on men their warlikeness. And they would dress for battle, sword on their thigh, and arrive on their splendid warhorse or in their war chariot. Solomon was not famed for his warlike activity but we have no need to doubt that he was present at times in defence, and even extension, of his realm.

        Here he is seen in the wedding procession both as bridegroom and warrior, sword girded on his thigh as a 'mighty one', glorious in majesty, riding majestically either on his war horse or in his chariot with a glorious future before him because he sought truth, meekness and righteousness (compare and contrast Zechariah 9.9; and see Song of Solomon 3.9-11). The future looked rosy, until he frittered it away.

        For the king of Israel truth was to be the central pillar of his life (Deuteronomy 17.18-20; Isaiah 11.1-5; 29.19; contrast Isaiah 59.14-15). Meekness was expected of a king as he considered the needs and petitions of the poor of the land (2 Samuel 15.3-4; Isaiah 29.19; Psalm 22.6; 37.11; 76.9). Righteousness was a prerequisite for a king of Israel (Isaiah 11.1-5).

        'Your right hand will teach you terrible things.' From the activities of his sword arm he would achieve greatness and glory, and prove his appointment by God, and learn much about himself. And he would learn too the perils and dangers of greatness, as with his right hand he administered justice, and made his mistakes.

        The Messiah would also go forward with His sword of truth (Isaiah 49.2; Revelation 1.16), and was called 'the Mighty God' (Isaiah 9.6). And he too would enter Jerusalem gloriously, even though on an asses colt (Zechariah 9.9). And truth and meekness and righteousness would prosper at His hand (Isaiah 11.1-4). While His right hand would achieve the greatest things of all as He healed all who came to Him, and healed the souls of men. Indeed the final picture of the Messiah in the New Testament is of Him riding to victory with His sharp two edged sword at the consummation of the age, as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19.11-16).

        The King An Impeccable Marksman (45.5)

        45.5

        'Your arrows are sharp,
        The peoples fall under you,
        They are in the heart of the king's enemies.'

        The idea here is that Solomon and his armies are regularly victorious, and that his bowmen especially are always effective, so that his enemies cannot stand against him. It is an indication of the power and effectiveness of the hosts of Solomon.

        But the Messiah is Himself like a polished arrow (Isaiah 49.2). And His shafts too are directed accurately into men's hearts so that as a result men fall at His feet and cry mercy. And they reach into the very hearts of His enemies, bringing them into subjection to Him, by His word. We can compare how both Job and David saw their troubles as 'arrows of the Almighty' (Job 6.4; Psalm 38.2; compare Lamentations 3.12).

        The picture of arrows as a means of God's judgment is found in Deuteronomy 32.23, 42; 2 Samuel 22.15; Psalm 77.17; 144.6; Zechariah 9.14, often in parallel with the idea of His lightning.

        The King Reigning In Glory And Equity As God's Unique Representative (45.6-7).

        The prestigious position of the king in God's eyes is now made clear. His rule will be everlasting, he will rule with equity, he will be elevated by God above all his fellow kings.

        45.6-7

        'Your throne is of God (or 'O God is') for ever and ever,
        A sceptre of equity is the sceptre of your kingdom.
        You have loved righteousness, and hated wickedness,
        Therefore God, your God, has anointed you,
        With the oil of gladness above your fellows.

        The essential divine nature of his kingship is now expressed. He has been adopted by God as His son, and God has promised to be his Father (2 Samuel 7.14; Psalm 2.7). Thus his throne is the one on earth appointed and established by God to have overall lordship, and its everlasting nature is guaranteed.

        But having said that the king must rule as befits God's appointee, in righteousness. His rule must demonstrate that he loves righteousness and hates all that is morally wrong. Thus his sceptre as king must be a sceptre of equity. He must rule justly and fairly, showing special favour to none. And it is for that reason that Elohim, his God (Elohim), has anointed him with joyous gladness above all others (compare 1 Kings 3.12-13). He is to rejoice in being king of kings as the anointed of God.

        Such a hope lay at the root of ideas about the Messiah, and it is the ideal kingship of the Messiah that is really in the prophet's mind. There was only One Who was really fitted for these words. It is our Lord Jesus Christ, and He alone, Who is worthy to be addressed as the Mighty El (Isaiah 9.6), Whose reign is from everlasting (Micah 5.2), Who will be exalted above all (Philippians 2.9-11), and of whose kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1.33). He above all was worthy to be anointed above His fellows as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 19.16). And in His case we may therefore translate as, 'Your throne, O God, is for ever and ever', for He not only sits on a divine throne, but is Himself the Almighty God.

        Note on 'Your Throne Is Of God For Ever and Ever'.

        There is here an interesting translation problem. The literal Hebrew is 'your throne God for ever and ever'. We might thus translate:

        • 1). 'Your throne O God is for ever and ever', seeing 'God' as a vocative, and thus as either addressing God or addressing the king..
        • 2). 'Your throne is elohim (divine) for ever and ever', seeing God as intended adjectivally.
        • 3). 'Your throne is of God for ever and ever', seeing God as descriptive of Who the real possessor of the throne is.
        • 4). 'God is your throne for ever and ever.' Seeing God as the subject of the sentence (unlike in English, and similarly to Greek and Latin, word order in Hebrew does not indicate the order of meaning.

          The Aramaic paraphrase in the Targum is, 'the throne of your majesty, O YHWH, abides for ever and ever'. It thus sees 'O God' as referring to YHWH and not the king. But it must be seen as unlikely that the Psalmist would switch to addressing God in this way, and then immediately switch back again, in a passage where he is constantly addressing the king. It does, however, bring out how difficult the translators saw the Hebrew to be when they eschewed 1) above. They clearly did not like the idea of the king as being addressed as Elohim.

          The writer to the Hebrews in 1.8 follows LXX which could be rendered as any of the above, apart possibly from the third (because Greek can indicate a genitive, and here it does not). But it should be noted that the writer to the Hebrews is concentrating more on His superiority to the angels in His mission than on His actual Godhead, and 'your throne is divine' fits well in parallel with 'a sceptre of righteousness'.

          One factor that should be borne in mind is that in this group of Psalms Elohim is very much the Name used of God, which would favour referring elohim here to God. However some have argued that elohim is elsewhere used of earthly authorities. Examples cited are Exodus 21.6; 22.7; Psalm 82.1, 6; compare Psalm 138.1, and it is said to be because they are God's representatives and the bearers of His image on earth. However, only Psalm 82.1, 6 can be said to be conclusive out of these verses, and there it is clear that the word is being used in the plural (as elsewhere it is also used of the angels). It is not therefore strictly parallel with here. It must be considered how unlikely it is that a man, even a great king, would be addressed as Elohim, especially in such a context in the Elohistic Psalms.

          On the other hand the use of Elohim adjectivally in this way would be unique in the Old Testament. Where a noun is used adjectivally it usually indicates the constituent nature of what is being described, and that would not be the case here.

          It would appear to us therefore that initially the text should be translated, 'your throne is of God' indicating that he does rule with God as his Overlord, although possibly with the intention of idicating some kind of special exaltation of the king. Compare 2 Samuel 7.14; Psalm 2.7. When applied to the Messiah therefore it can be seen as being given its fuller significance.

          End of note.

          Proceeding To The Royal Wedding (45.8-9).

          Having established the glory of the king's person attention now turns to the Royal Wedding. He is covered in delightful ointments and perfumes, he is welcomed by stringed instruments playing from ivory palaces, he is attended by the daughters of kings, and at his right hand is his noble queen arrayed in the finest of gold, the gold of Ophir. All is ready for them being united as one.

          In the New Testament the bride of Christ is revealed to be the church (2 Corinthians 11.2; Ephesians 5.25-27; Revelation 19.8; 21.2), composed of all true believers in Christ, and her covering is to be 'the righteousnesses of God's people

          45.8-9

          'All your garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia,
          Out of ivory palaces stringed instruments have made you glad.
          Kings' daughters are among your honourable women,
          At your right hand stands the queen in gold of Ophir.'

          The king is rigged out in his finery, and covered in delightful ointments and perfumes, and the procession passes by his ivory palace. Ivory palaces were a sign of ostentation and wealth, and indicated powerful and successful kings (see Amos 3.15). Ahab was famous for his ivory palace (1 Kings 22.39). That there are a number of such suggests the glory of this king, and as he passes by them in his royal procession the musicians are out on the balconies playing loudly and skilfully in order to add to the joy of the occasion. Or the idea may be that it was in such a palace that he was greeted by his prospective queen.

          He is so noble and powerful that his honourable women, attending at the wedding, were nothing less than the daughters of kings. The king's daughters may have been other wives, or they may simply have come from their father's kingdoms to play their part in the wedding in honour of the King.

          But most conspicuous of all is his wife, standing there in her beauty, dressed in gold of Ophir, the finest of imported gold (1 Kings 9.28; 10.11). Here then is splendour indeed, and it demonstrates the magnificence of the occasion, and adequately depicts the even greater glory of the coming Messiah, of whom this king is a type and forerunner.

          The identity of his queen is unknown. That it is not Pharaoh's daughter is probable in that there is no mention of Egypt. To marry the daughter of an Egyptian Pharaoh was such an honour, and would have added such prestige to the wedding, that it would hardly have been allowed to pass without mention. It is attractive to think that it might have been the Shulamite of the Song of Solomon. The only doubt is as to whether she was a king's daughter (verse 13). But see Song of Solomon 7.1. She may well have been the daughter of a relatively minor shepherd king.

          Advice Given To The Bride (45.10-12).

          The bride is advised to forget her past life and to look forward to her glorious future. She may well never have met her husband-to-be, and was probably feeling a little lost and homesick. But she is advised to accept advice and be responsive, and to forget her own people and her father's house and give proper reverence to her new husband. Then will the king desire her, and all will treat her with honour. This was a duty that every king's daughter was expected to follow. They were brought up to recognise that they would go to some foreign king as a treaty wife, and from then on should forget their old home.

          It is a beautiful picture of the bride of Christ who on coming to Christ is called on to turn her back on the past and live only for Him. Her sole desire is to be to please Him.

          45.10-12

          Listen, O daughter, and consider, and incline your ear;
          Forget also your own people, and your father's house,
          So will the king desire your beauty,
          For he is your lord, and reverence you him.
          And the daughter of Tyre will be there with a gift,
          The rich among the people will entreat your favour.'

          The bride is called on to listen carefully to final last minute advice, probably from some beloved attendant who has accompanied her on her journey. It is that she will pay close heed to what she is now told. She must now put out of her mind her own people, for whom she has had such affection, and her father's house where she has been so courted and admired, and give all her attention to pleasing her new lord. Then the king will desire her beauty. For she is to remember that he is now her lord and that she must reverence him.

          Then not only will her husband desire her beauty, but influential and wealthy people will come and pay her homage. The 'daughter of Tyre', like 'the daughter of Zion', is a description of the whole people of Tyre. Tyre was at the time an outstandingly rich and influential city state. She would only bring a gift to someone of great importance. And the same was true of the wealthy. They would seek the favour of someone whom they saw as influential.

          It is therefore unlikely that the bride is the daughter of Pharaoh. The daughter of Pharaoh was unlikely to be impressed by either of these facts. But the young Shulammite princess, who was probably Solomon's first wife, certainly would have been.

          As far as the Messianic aspect is concerned it is an indication that His 'bride' should leave behind their old lives and be completely committed to Him. Old things are to pass away. All things are to become new (2 Corinthians 5.17). He is to be their 'all'.

          The Glory Of The Bride (45.13-15).

          The glory of the bride, who is a king's daughter, is now described, and her entrance in splendour into the king's palace.

          45.13-15

          'The king's daughter within the palace is all glorious,
          Her clothing is inwrought with gold.
          She will be led to the king in embroidered work,
          The virgins her companions who follow her,
          Will be brought to you.'
          With gladness and rejoicing will they be led,
          They will enter into the king's palace.'

          Having responded to the advice given to her the bride now leaves her palace and goes bravely to the king's palace amidst all the festivities. She is splendidly dressed in a gold interlaced, heavily embroidered outfit, and is led forth to her bridegroom. Her virgin companions accompany her in solemn and stately procession, and they are brought with gladness and rejoicing into the king's own palace.

          'Will be brought to you.' The Psalmist has been talking to the prospective queen, (verse 10-11), but had changed tense to describe her splendour, now he turns back to speaking to her again.

          We can see in this splendour of the bride a picture of the even greater splendour given to Christ's church, when she is to be 'glorious, without spot and blemish and any such thing' (Ephesians 5.26). She too will enter Heaven with rejoicing.

          Concluding Promises To The King (45.16).

          45.16

          'Instead of your fathers will be your children,
          Whom you will make princes in all the earth.
          I will make your name to be remembered in all generations,
          Therefore will the peoples give you thanks for ever and ever.'

          The final urging to the king is that he should concentrate his thoughts on his prospective children. These will replace his ancestors, and in contrast will be made princes in all the earth. Compare what was said about the sons of David in Psalm 122.5. The king's sons regularly had a say in ruling under their father.

          This will then enable the writer (or God) to make his name remembered to all generations, although note the possible gentle transition into God's final promise made to him (Who else could promise this?). God will ensure that his name is remembered for ever, and that people will thank him for ever and ever. This last could only really be true of the Coming king who would rule over the everlasting kingdom (2 Samuel 7.13, 16).

          It is often said that it is difficult to apply this last verse to the Messianic concept of the Psalm, but that is only so if the application is interpreted too strictly. However, if we remember that Isaiah said of the future Messiah that 'He would see His seed' (Isaiah 53.10), it fits in admirably. The bride will produce princely sons for her bridegroom (who will in fact then become part of the bride).

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          GENESIS ---EXODUS--- LEVITICUS 1.1-7.38 --- 8.1-11.47 --- 12.1-16.34--- 17.1-27.34--- NUMBERS 1-10--- 11-19--- 20-36--- DEUTERONOMY 1.1-4.44 --- 4.45-11.32 --- 12.1-29.1--- 29.2-34.12 --- THE BOOK OF JOSHUA --- THE BOOK OF JUDGES --- PSALMS 1-36--- ECCLESIASTES--- SONG OF SOLOMON --- ISAIAH --- EZEKIEL --- DANIEL 1-7 ---DANIEL 8-12 --- MICAH ---

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