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FREE Scholarly verse by verse commentaries on the Bible.



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).

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.


‘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.


‘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.


‘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.


‘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.


‘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.


‘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.


‘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.


‘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).


‘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.


‘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.


‘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.


‘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.


‘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.


‘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.


‘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).


‘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.


‘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.


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.


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).


‘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).


‘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).


‘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.


‘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)


‘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).


    ‘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).


    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)


    ‘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.


    ‘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


    ‘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.


    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.


    ‘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).


    ‘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).


    The next three Psalms that we will look at, Psalms 46-48, are connected and contain a trilogy of praise for some signal deliverance of Jerusalem from its enemies. They make clear that God is the Great King over all the earth. But as with so many Psalms they give no hint as to whom the deliverance was from. They are focused on God and on His power to save, and were clearly written so that they might be of ongoing value. Thus for us they are a reminder that God is over all and that God’s power is available to save us if we are His, whatever our circumstances might be. Thus:

    • Psalm 46 stresses that God is with His people and is their refuge and Stronghold, and the consequence is that while their trust is in Him Jerusalem is the inviolate city of God, so that opposing kingdoms will melt before them at the sound of His voice. The invitation is then given to the people to consider how He has wrought peace on the earth, and has been exalted among the nations. Its overall theme is that ‘YHWH is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge’. Most commentators see it as having in mind God’s deliverance of Jerusalem under Hezekiah (2 Kings 18.13-19.37; compare Isaiah 36-37), but other alternatives have been suggested.
    • Psalm 47 concentrates on the idea of the universal sovereignty of YHWH. It stresses that God is their King, and is King over all the earth, and is the great Subduer of the nations.
    • Psalm 48 stresses the mightiness of YHWH, and the inviolability of Mount Zion because it is the City of the Great King. The consequence will be that when the nations gather together against her, they will fall back in dismay so that great praise comes to God.

    We will now consider the three Psalms individually.

    Psalm 46.


    ‘For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah; set to Alamoth. A Song.’

    Here we have another Psalm dedicated to the choirmaster, and also another which was either written by, or composed on behalf of ‘the sons of Korah’ who were musicians and singers in the Temple. They were a branch of the subtribe of the Korahites. (See introduction to Part 2). ‘Alamoth’ means ‘damsels’ and 1 Chronicles 15.20 speaks of ‘psalteries set to Alamoth’. Thus Alamoth may well refer to Psalms set especially for women’s voices.

    This Psalm stresses that God is with His people and is their refuge. The consequence is that while they trust in Him Jerusalem is the inviolate city of God, with the result that opposing kingdoms will melt before them at the sound of His voice. (What they overlooked later was that this was only the case when king and people were loyal to God. It was not automatic).

    The invitation is then given to consider how He has wrought peace on the earth, and has been exalted among the nations. Its theme is ‘YHWH is with us, the God of Jacob is our refuge’ (verses 7, 11).

    Most commentators see it as having in mind God’s deliverance of Jerusalem under Hezekiah (2 Kings 18.13-19.37; compare Isaiah 36-37), when the armies of Assyria which were besieging Libnah and Jerusalem were decimated by the angel of YHWH (Isaiah 37.36), something which, combined with news from Assyria about troubles at home (Isaiah 37.7), caused Sennacherib to return there, leaving Jerusalem relatively unscathed.

    Note the contrast between the raging waters of the enemy, and of spiritual troubles battering at us (2-3), and the peaceful waters that come from the throne of God which bring only gladness to God’s people (4). Compare the similar pictures in Isaiah 8.6-8 where because the people have rejected the peaceful waters ‘of Shiloah that flow gently’, they will have to face the raging waters of the armies of Assyria. Because they have turned away from the true Immanuel (7.14), they will find themselves at the tender mercies of Ahaz, the self-proclaimed Immanuel (8.8).

    God’s People’s Confidence Is In Him Even In The Face Of Raging Waters (46.1b-3).


    ‘God is our refuge and strength,
    A very present help in trouble.’

    The Psalmist commences with an expression of confidence in God as our place of safety, our certain refuge. Once we are in God we are therefore truly safe. Indeed He is the source of our very strength, (or alternately is our stronghold). The words may well have had in mind how stoutly the walls of Jerusalem had kept out the Assyrians. But they were also well aware that if God had not stepped in eventually those mighty walls would have fallen, whereas they can know that the walls of God will never be breached, even in the face of the battering of the mightiest of seas. To Israel particularly the seas were seen as an enemy of inestimable proportions because they had little to do with the sea and only saw its awesomeness from the land. Despite their coastline they had few secure ports.

    ‘A very present help in trouble.’ This should literally be translated, ‘a help in troubles has He let Himself be found exceedingly’, expressing the wonderful deliverance that they had experienced, and their consciousness that God had abundantly stepped in and supplied it. But its presence in a Psalm indicates that His massive help is available for all continually. It was not just a one off.


    ‘Therefore will we not fear, though the earth do change,
    And though the mountains be shaken into the heart of the seas,
    Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled,
    Though the mountains tremble with the swelling thereof.’ [Selah

    As a result we will not be filled with fear, and will not be shaken, whatever happens. The earth itself may be subject to change, the fierce waters may batter against the great cliffs causing them to fall into the sea, the waters may roar and be troubled as the storm rages, the mountains may tremble at their impact. But none of this will move us, for we will know that God is our refuge.

    In mind in the picture may well have been the impact of invading forces, and the fierce onslaughts of enemy warriors, as they battered the people, but it is equally as true when we have to face spiritual enemies. Then, when the world seems in turmoil, we can be sure that God will be our refuge and stronghold. He will be ‘our strength’.

    We note that each section ends with the word ‘selah’, which probably denotes a musical pause. From our point of view it is saying dramatically, ‘think of that!’

    In Contrast With The Raging Waters Which Seek To Shake Them God Is To Be Seen As Like A Peaceful River Making Glad His People (46.4-7).


    ‘There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God,
    The holy place of the dwellingplaces of the Most High.
    God is in the midst of her; She shall not be moved,
    God will help her, and that right early.’

    We can compare with this Isaiah 33.21, where it says, ‘there (in Zion) YHWH in majesty will be for us, a place of broad rivers and streams’. Permanent rivers and streams where what men in Palestine dreamed of so that they might not be so dependent on the rain. We can compare the fruitfulness of Eden with its great river (Genesis 2.10). This is therefore a picture of full provision. (Compare the similar picture in Ezekiel 47). And the promise is that to us God will be such a River, through His Spirit, a river that will satisfy our hearts and will also flow out from us to others (John 7.37-38). And it will flow to all of God’s people, to ‘the city of God’.

    Note the description of the city of God. It is ‘the holy place of the dwellingplaces of the Most High’. For Israel that was because it was there that the Temple was among them, with its inner and outer sanctum, and its storage and utility rooms, the place where God met with them and dwelt among them. For us it is because we are ourselves are together the Temple of the Holy Spirit, and each of us is a sanctuary of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3.16; 6.19; 2 Corinthians 6.16-18; Ephesians 2.19-22), so that God’s River flows in, and through, and from us continually (John 7.38).

    Note also the description of God as ‘the Most High’. This title is regularly used in relation to the nations. It is a reminder that God is over all. See, for example, Genesis 14.22; Numbers 24.16; and compare Daniel 3.26; 4.2.

    And because God in the midst of her is over all, nothing can move or shake her. For while she trusts in Him God will always help her, and that without delay (right early). In the same way because God is in the midst of us we too, if we trust in Him, will not be moved. We too can be sure that we will know His prompt and powerful help.

    ‘And that right early.’ Literally, ‘when the morning appears’ (compare Exodus 14.27). Thus it is saying that His assistance will come once the night is over and morning appears, without our being made to wait until later in the day.


    ‘The nations raged (or ‘roared’), the kingdoms were moved,
    He uttered his voice, the earth melted.
    YHWH of hosts is with us,
    The God of Jacob is our refuge.’ [Selah

    This confidence that we have in God is in spite of the activities and efforts of the world in its enmity against God. The nations might rage and roar against God’s people, the kingdoms might move against them, but they can be confident that when God utters His voice the earth and all that is within it melts. And where will they be then? We can compare with this Isaiah’s beautiful words, ‘in quietness and in confidence will be your strength’ (Isaiah 30.15).

    And this is because YHWH of hosts, YHWH the God of battle and lord of the heavenly hosts, is with us. It is because the God of Jacob (Israel) is our stronghold. Knowing that God is with us and is our stronghold is sufficient to bring peace in the most devastating of situation.

    In the original instance Israel had seen the raging and roaring nations melt away as the Assyrians withdrew hastily from Judah once God had uttered His voice. But the promise is to all believers whatever troubles they have to face. Note how the same words ‘roar’ and ‘moved’ are used as in verse 2. It reminds us that those whose trust is in God need fear neither natural phenomena, nor the activities of men. For God is in control over all.

    The second section again ends with Selah, ‘think of that’.

    A Call To Consider All God’s Mercies And To Recognise That One Day He Will Bring Everlasting Peace And Will Be Exalted Among The Nations (46.8-11).


    ‘Come, behold the works of YHWH,
    What desolations he has made in the earth.
    He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth,
    He breaks the bow, and cuts the spear in sunder,
    He burns the baggage wagons (or ‘shields’) in the fire.

    All God’s people are now called on to look on and consider the works of YHWH. Let them look on and consider His final judgments, as initially exemplified in the destruction of the Assyrian army. Mankind may continue to fight and war, but God will in the end visit them with His desolations, thereby bringing to an end all their sinful activities. He will outlaw war worldwide, He will destroy man’s weaponry, He will burn up their supplies. (Then He will introduce His kingdom of everlasting peace). Compare here Isaiah 2.3-4 which describes how He will do it. And see Revelation 19.

    ‘Baggage wagons.’ Compare 1 Samuel 17.20; 26.7. The word nowhere means chariots. Some would repoint to mean ‘shields’ as in LXX and the Targum.


    ‘Be still, and know that I am God,
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.’

    All are therefore to be stilled in awe, as they recognise by what He has done, that He truly is God, and what it will mean for the future. For in the future God will be exalted among the nations. He will be exalted in the earth. All power will be seen to be His, even on earth. To Him every knee will bow. His triumph is sure.

    This gradual attainment of His triumph began at the cross when he defeated all the powers of evil (Colossians 2.15), then as His people went our to establish the Kingly Rule of God, and it will be finalised in that day when Satan and all his hosts and followers, including warring mankind, are totally vanquished (Revelation 19), and God is all in all.


    ‘YHWH of hosts is with us,
    The God of Jacob is our refuge.’ [Selah

    No wonder then that he can remind God’s people that:

    • ‘YHWH of the hosts of heaven and earth is with us.’
    • ‘The God who protected weak and lowly Jacob is our refuge.’

    With God present with us as our powerful God and Protector we need fear nothing.

    Psalm 47.


    ‘For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.’

    See introduction to part 2.

    The Psalm divides easily into two as indicated by ‘Selah’. The first half describes Who and What God is as YHWH Most High, King over all the earth, and the One Who has chosen out and acted on behalf of His people in the past. The second half has in mind the acclamation of YHWH as a result of the signal deliverance that He has wrought for His people, which has demonstrated His worldwide Kingship and glory, and has resulted in the nations of the world acknowledging His Kingship and becoming His people too. It is a depiction of God as Lord over all, and is a foretaste of God’s final triumph in Christ.

    The Nations Are Called On To Salute YHWH Most High As The Great King Over All The Earth Who Has Established His People In The Choicest Of Lands (47.1-4). .


    Oh clap your hands, all you peoples,
    Shout to God with the voice of triumph.
    For YHWH Most High is terrible,
    He is a great King over all the earth.

    The clapping of hands and the shouts of acclamation were the means by which peoples normally acknowledged their great king and overlord. Here then they are called on to acknowledge YHWH Most High, the great King over all the earth, because of His recent triumph. For thereby He had revealed His awesome power.

    The description is in direct contrast with the title that Sennacherib claimed for himself as ‘the great king’ (Isaiah 35.4). YHWH had now put Sennacherib firmly in his place demonstrating Who really was the Great King (compare 46.4; 48.2), YHWH Most High. His worldwide dominion has been demonstrated.

    Here then His people are to clap their hands and shout in triumph because He has come down and wrought a mighty deliverance and is now returning to His heavenly abode, having achieved the victory.

    We also should clap our hands and shout in triumph as we consider how our Lord Jesus Christ came down and wrought our deliverance, and has now ascended into Heaven as the great Victor, and as our everlasting King, and will one day do it again in a different way at His second coming.


    ‘He subdued peoples under us,
    And nations under our feet.
    He chose our inheritance for us,
    The glory of Jacob whom he loved.’ [Selah

    And that worldwide dominion that is His, and has now been demonstrated, had already been previously demonstrated by the fact that in earlier times He had subdued peoples under Israel, and had brought nations under their feet. He had done it when they had entered Canaan in order to take their inheritance. Indeed it was He Who had chosen that inheritance for them, that choicest of lands in which they gloried as the people (Jacob) whom He loved (compare Deuteronomy 7.6-8). And it was He Who enabled them to possess it.

    Note their recognition that it was because He had chosen to love them that they had experienced His salvation and blessing. It had not been their doing. It had been all of His goodness. And the same is true of us as the people of God today. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4.9-10), and He has given us a glorious inheritance (Ephesians 1.11, 14; 1 Peter 1.4), because He chose us in Christ before the world began (Ephesians 1.4).

    The Psalmist Sees YHWH As Having Received His Acclamation As King Over All The Earth And Over All Peoples (47.5-9).

    In this second part of the Psalm we are introduced to the triumph ceremony following the defeat and humiliation of Sennacherib and the Assyrian army. We are probably to see that the Ark of the Covenant of YHWH has been brought out of the Holy of Holies and is now leading a great procession up the Mount back into the Temple, accompanied by clapping, shouting and singing, and this as a portrayal of His own rise to heaven after having gloriously come down and disposed of the enemy.

    It is probable that representatives of the nations round about who had seen the humiliation of Sennacherib had come to Jerusalem and were joining with them in the ceremony. (Hezekiah had been one of the leaders in a coalition against Assyria). They too were grateful for what had been wrought by Israel’s God (compare 2 Chronicles 20.29).


    ‘God is gone up with a shout,
    YHWH with the sound of a ram’s horn.
    Sing praise to God, sing praises,
    Sing praises to our King, sing praises.’

    As the Ark, the symbol of God’s earthly presence, is borne triumphantly upwards towards the Temple, it is seen as depicting the greater reality of YHWH returning to His heavenly throne having dealt with the Assyrians (compare 68.18; 1 Kings 8.27). The shouting and the blowing of the ram’s horns greet His victory, while the people are called on to sing praises to Him as their God and King. It is bringing home their recognition of the supreme Sovereignty of God as Lord over both Heaven and earth.


    ‘For God is the King of all the earth,
    Sing you praises with understanding.
    God reigns over the nations,
    God sits upon his holy throne.’

    And this is moreso because He has now unquestionably proved Himself to be the King of all the earth. (Who else could have defeated the Great King of Assyria who ruled over ‘all the earth’?). Thus as they praise they are to understand the significance of what they are doing. They are to see that they are praising the One Who reigns over the nations, and Who sits on His holy throne, both in Heaven and on earth.

    When Jesus came to His disciples after His resurrection and declared that ‘all authority has been given to Me in Heaven and on earth’ (Matthew 28.18) He was revealing the same, and it represented an even greater victory, which we too should constantly celebrate with clapping and shouting and singing, and the blowing of trumpets (see Acts 2.32-36; Ephesians 1.19-22; 1 Peter 3.22; Hebrews 1.3).


    ‘The princes of the peoples are gathered together,
    To be the people of the God of Abraham,
    For the shields of the earth belong to God,
    He is greatly exalted.’

    As they looked at the nations from round about who had gathered with them to celebrate the victory it must have brought to mind the great promises of Isaiah about the nations submitting at His feet. And they saw in this a portrayal of that day when the peoples of the nations would become the people of the God of Abraham, through whom all nations would be blessed (Genesis 12.3). And they knew that that day was inevitable. For what God had done had demonstrated that the shields of the earth belonged to Him. It had demonstrated His great exaltation.

    Today as we look around and see how His true church has become established around the world, how much more should we be shouting His praise as His conquest of the nations continues as a result of His even greater victory gained at the cross. For He has truly gathered men from the nations of the world, and is still doing so, in order that they might be the people of the God of Abraham.

    Psalm 48.


    ‘A Song; a Psalm of the sons of Korah.’

    For the sons of Korah see introduction to Part 2. Many of the temple singers were sons of Korah.

    This psalm continue the theme of the Great King. Its aim is to exalt Him and describe the wonder of the place where He dwells. Israel were well aware that God was so great that even the Heaven of Heavens could not contain Him. In the words of the wise Solomon, ‘Behold Heaven, and the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain you. How much less this house that I have built’ (1 Kings 8.27).

    But they also knew that God had been pleased to establish on earth a place where He could be approached, a kind of doorway to Heaven. And that place was the Temple on Mount Zion, on which was centred the worship of the one true God. That was why they gloried in Mount Zion and Jerusalem, because they represented God’s interest revealed on earth towards His people, and they pointed to, and drew men to, God. Today that Temple has been replaced by a greater Temple, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself (compare John 4.24). Thus all that is said here about the Temple and Jerusalem should now be focused on our Lord Jesus Christ Who has replaced the Temple as the centre of people’s worship. It is now to Him that we should point, and to Whom we should give praise and glory.

    The Greatness of God And The Beauty Of The Place Which Represents His Dwelling Among Men (48.1-3).


    ‘Great is YHWH, and greatly to be praised,
    In the city of our God, in his holy mountain.’


    ‘Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth,
    Is mount Zion, on the sides of the north,
    The city of the great King.
    God has made himself known in her palaces for a refuge.’

    We should note here that while Mount Zion is being admired, it is not Mount Zion but the Great God Himself Who is being exalted. Mount Zion is only seen as beautiful in that it points towards the living God. It is the great God YHWH Who is to be greatly praised.

    The description of Mount Zion should also be noted. It is described in a way that transcends itself. ‘The sides of the north’ indicated the sacred mountains far off from men see Isaiah 14.13; Ezekiel 38.6, 15; 39.2. Here God is, as it were, seen to have planted those sacred mountains in Jerusalem as His earthly abode. So as in Isaiah 2.2-4 it represents both the earthly and the heavenly Mount Zion. As men gazed on the earthly they were also to think of the heavenly. Today the earthly has long been done away, and we are to concentrate our thoughts on the heavenly (Hebrews 12.22).

    And yet there is still a Temple on earth in which God can be found. It is that Temple which consist of all true believers in Jesus Christ. In them dwells the Holy Spirit of God, and through them the glory of God is to be manifested to the world (see 1 Corinthians 3.16; 6.19; 2 Corinthians 6.16-18; Ephesians 2.18-22). That is why we can rightly apply ideas about Mount Zion to His people.

    So just as the people of old could gather on Mount Zion and sing His praises, and see it as beautiful because of its exaltation, and as the joy of the whole earth because of what it represented as ‘the city of the Great King’ where God made himself known, so today can we glorify God for His true church in which He dwells, made up of all who truly believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and call on His Name (regardless of denomination) and worship Him in His Temple. His church is beautiful in elevation (compare Galatians 4.26; Ephesians 5.25-27), even though it may dwell here in vessels of clay, for we are the living stones of the Temple of God, built up on the chief Cornerstone, our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2.4-7), and we are called on to show forth the excellencies of Him Who has called us out of darkness into His most glorious light (1 Peter 2.9).

    Thus can we sing:

    Glorious things of you are spoken,
    Zion city of our God.
    He Whose word cannot be broken,
    Formed you for His own abode.
    On the Rock of Ages founded,
    What can shake your sure repose,
    With salvation’s walls surrounded,
    You can smile at all your foes.

    ‘God has made himself known in her palaces for a refuge.’ And because God has made Himself known in the palaces of Jerusalem as being a refuge of His people (at that stage Jerusalem had a godly king), Jerusalem can rest secure knowing that she cannot be touched by her enemies. And the same confidence can be enjoyed by God’s people today as He makes Himself known to us through His church.

    The Nations Quail Before The Power of God In His Holy Hill (48-4-7).

    The glory of the dwellingplace of the Great God is such that the nations quail before Him. Though they may assemble themselves against His people and approach them with hostile purpose, once they recognise what they are fighting against they quail before it and fade away. This had proved true of Sennacherib and his forces. It would always prove true for whoever came against Jerusalem, because God was with them.


    ‘For, lo, the kings assembled themselves,
    They passed over together.
    They saw it, then were they amazed,
    They were dismayed, they hastened away.
    Trembling took hold of them there,
    Pain, as of a woman in travail.
    With the east wind you break,
    The ships of Tarshish.’

    The kings of the nations had gathered themselves together against God’s people. They had passed over together and approached the city of God. But then, when they actually saw it they stopped in amazement. They were dismayed at what they saw and hastened away. Indeed so great was its impact that they trembled and were filled with the equivalent of labour pains. And God’s powerful and feared east wind blew among them, and the proud Tyreans and their associates fell before it. The ships of Tarshish sailed regularly from Tyre around the world, and here they indicate what is strong and invulnerable. Or at least they are until the East wind blows. Perhaps it also represents the powerful Tyrean contingent in Sennacherib’s army. But Tyre’s glory and Sennacherib’s glory could not stand in the face of God’s holy mountain, the place that God had chosen as His earthly abode. God’s East Wind would see to that.

    In the same way we can be sure today that all who begin to plot against the people of God will find themselves ashamed and dismayed. They may appear to be a great threat, but in the end their threat will collapse.

    God’s People Rejoice In The Security Of The City Of God Now Evidenced Not Just By Hearsay But Also By What They Had Themselves Seen (48.8).


    ‘As we have heard, so have we seen,
    In the city of YHWH of hosts,
    In the city of our God,
    God will establish it for ever. [Selah

    The deliverance having taken place, and the enemy having faded away, God’s people triumphantly declare that they have now seen with their own eyes the delivering power of God revealed on behalf of His people. They had from their past heard many stories of His delivering power, but now they had seen it for themselves. It was thus clear to them that the city of YHWH of hosts, the city of their God, would be established by Him for ever.

    And while they were faithful to Him that was, of course, true. But what they later forgot was that their security depended on faithfulness to the covenant. The truth was that God’s promises were only secure to an obedient people. That is why Jerusalem would end up a ruin, not once but a number of times (under Nebuchadnezzar, under Antiochus Epiphanes and under the Romans). However, in all that it was not that God had forgotten His true people. While unbelieving Israel suffered and perished, they were preserved through all the tribulations that would come, as part of the whole people of God who will rise again at the last day (Isaiah 26.19). Their names were recorded in Heaven. Thus God’s cause was secure. It is the outward trimmings that suffer, as they would later also for the churches in Asia Minor when their lamp went out, not the inner heart of His true people.

    ‘Selah.’ This once again indicates a musical break and a pause for thought.

    Having Meditated On What Has Happened, God’s People Now Declare Their Confidence in God (48.9-11).


    ‘We have thought on your lovingkindness, O God,
    In the midst of your temple.
    As is your name, O God,
    So is your praise to the ends of the earth,
    Your right hand is full of righteousness,
    Let mount Zion be glad,
    Let the daughters of Judah rejoice,
    Because of your judgments.

    What they have seen has turned their thoughts towards God’s lovingkindness (His covenant love), as they come to worship in His Temple, and they acknowledge gladly that what His Name (His nature and activity) means to them has also become known to other nations so that they also praise Him. Many nations had in fact cause to be grateful for the humiliating of Assyria, and would give praise to Israel’s God for His deliverance.

    For they recognise that God has acted in righteous deliverance by the might of His right hand, and will therefore, they are sure, continue to do so. Thus Mount Zion herself could rejoice, and so could all the neighbouring towns (her ‘daughters’ - compare Numbers 21.25; Joshua 17.11, 16) who had suffered so terribly under the Assyrian invasion. All could now rest secure in the judgments and decisions of their mighty God.

    What they later forgot was that His righteous deliverance was only for the righteous. Thus once they had virtually forsaken Him His protection no longer applied. The promise of His protection applies to all who are faithful to God, but only if they are looking to Him and trusting in Him. When they are they can ever be sure that His right hand will finally vindicate them, and that His judgments will be carried out on their behalf.

    The Triumphant Inspection (48.12-14).

    This may well have originally indicated a celebratory inspection of the walls carried out in triumphal procession in order to give thanksgiving to God, and it may even have been one that continued to be celebrated annually.


    ‘Walk about Zion,
    And go round about her,
    Number her towers,
    Mark well her bulwarks,
    Consider her palaces,
    That you may tell it to the generation following.
    For this God is our God for ever and ever,
    He will be our guide even to death.

    We must not misunderstand the Psalmist here. He is not boasting about the strength of Jerusalem He is rather praising God for the fact that it is all still there. He is basically saying, ‘look, because of what God has done you are now free to walk around the outside of the city now. And as you do so you will note that nothing is missing. Her towers are still intact, her bulwarks (defensive walls) are in place, her palaces are still unmarked. And this in spite of the threats of the King of Assyria.’ This then is final evidence of how fully God has delivered them, and they will therefore be able to tell ensuing generations, how God preserved it for them, and delivered them without any real harm coming to Jerusalem. And this, he reminds them, is due solely to their God, the God Who is theirs for ever and ever, and will be the guide of each one of them until death.

    Note the contrast between their counting the towers, and the fact that the Assyrians had previously counted the towers with very different intent (Isaiah 33.18). The Assyrians had intended to destroy them. Thus God has by His deliverance altered the whole situation.

    ‘He will be our guide even to death.’ Some suggest that this fits oddly in the context because it is too personally applied in a national Psalm, but it is not really so. It can rather be seen as a practical final comment applying the situation of the whole to each individual. Having sung generally of the greatness of God, they are being brought to recognise that for each one of them that greatness is applicable throughout their lives.

    Psalm 49.


    ‘For the Chief Musician. A Psalm of the sons of Korah.’

    This is the last of the Psalms of the sons of Korah (42-49) to be found in this second part. (In the third part see 84-85; 87-88).

    The Psalm is addressed to both rich and poor, and is a meditation on wealth. It can be seen as in very close parallel with the Book of Proverbs. It could be called a ‘wisdom’ Psalm, and gives warning that while wealth may appear desirable in this life, it offers nothing for the next. Then the only question that will count will be as to whether we were right with God.

    An Appeal To Listen To His Words (49-1-5).

    The Psalmist commences by making an appeal to all men, both high and low, rich and poor, to listen to his wisdom. Note his recognition that he is speaking mysteries (parables, dark sayings). This would confirm that he expects them to see in what he is saying something more than the usual platitudes. For he is in fact indicating that for those who trust God this life is not the end. There is hope beyond the grave. Such glimpses of a future hope are found a number of times in Davidic Psalms (e.g. 16.10-11; 17.15; 23.6).


    ‘Hear this, all you peoples,
    Give ear, all you inhabitants of the world,
    Both low and high,
    Rich and poor together.
    My mouth will speak wisdom,
    And the meditation of my heart will be of understanding.
    I will incline my ear to a parable,
    I will open my dark saying on the harp.
    For what reason should I fear in the days of evil,
    When iniquity at my heels compasses me about?

    His appeal is to all people of all classes. It contains a universal appeal which is characteristic of wisdom literature, but is also found in the prophets (see Micah 1.2). He wants it known that what he has to say applies to everyone. The word for ‘world’ is an unusual one indicating the transitory nature of the world. And it is the transitory nature of life that is a central idea in the Psalm.

    He speaks to ‘both low and high’. This is literally ‘both sons of mankind (adam) and sons of men (ish - important men)’. Thus it is to the common man and also to the distinguished man. It is also to rich and poor. To the rich lest they trust in their riches. To the poor lest they become discontented with their lot. All need to heed his words. None must see themselves as outside their scope.

    He explains that his aim is to give wisdom and understanding (literally ‘wisdoms and understandings’. The plural indicates the length and breadth of that wisdom and understanding). In other words he is speaking of the deeper things in life. Yet he recognises also that he can only do so in terms of simile and metaphor. He is not speaking of what is commonplace. He thus speaks in comparisons (mashal) and dark sayings (chidah).

    ‘I will incline my ear --.’ He leans forward, as it were, to hear what God has to say, for what he has to say is coming from God..

    The word mashal (parable) indicates a comparison, a proverb, a parable, a metaphorical saying, or a poem (Isaiah 14.4). It is illustrative rather than literal. The word chidah (dark saying) indicates an enigma or riddle (Judges 14.12 ff; 1 Kings 10.1), a simile or parable (see Ezekiel 17.2), an obscure utterance, a mystery, a dark saying. For both words used together elsewhere see 78.2; Proverbs 1.6; Ezekiel 17.2. Certainly one of the great mysteries of life to many was the prosperity of the unrighteous. Why should God allow the unrighteous to prosper, and the truly righteous to go in need? Men often saw only the outward trimmings and not the importance of the inner heart which riches could destroy.

    ‘On the harp.’ He intends to set it to music. Men will often listen to the wisdom of a song where they would eschew the same words if plainly put.

    And the question that he raises is as to why he should fear when evil abounds, and when he is dogged by injustice and sin which threaten to trip him up. David especially, for example, had known what it meant to be ‘on the run’, as had Elijah. And they had learned in such experiences to trust in God.

    The Helplessness Of The Rich In The Face Of Death (49.6-10).

    He now points out that the rich are helpless in the face of death. None can redeem his brother, because the price of such redemption is too high. None can give to his brother eternal life and incorruptibility. The implication is that such a redemption might be possible. But not at a cost that the rich can pay, however rich they are.


    Those who trust in their wealth,
    And boast themselves in the multitude of their riches,
    None of them can by any means redeem his brother,
    Nor give to God a ransom for him,
    (For the redemption of their life is costly,
    And it fails for ever),
    That he should still live always,
    That he should not see corruption.’

    He sees men strutting around in their riches and splendour, confident that nothing can drag them down. And then they are suddenly faced with the death of a loved one, and there is nothing that they can do about it. Suddenly all their wealth has become useless. All their money cannot enable them to buy that person back from death. They cannot make anyone live for ever.

    The words for ransom and redemption are found in Exodus 21.30 where a man is considered to bear the guilt for a death which is caused by an ox if that ox has gored men previously, thus showing its propensities, and has been allowed to live (thus putting its owner under a responsibility to ensure that it cannot happen again). If it gores a man to death the owner bears the guilt. But in that case ransom and redemption was possible and the courts and the relatives of the dead man could determine the size of compensation which would allow the owner to live.

    However, the Psalmist’s point is that when it comes to a man or woman themselves dying, there is no price payable by man that can prevent them from dying and their body corrupting. In this case no ransom is sufficient. The redemption of such a life is too costly. Any attempt to achieve it must fail for ever. Again, however, there is the implication that there is such a redemption. It is simply one that is not achievable by man.

    ‘By any means redeem.’ This is translating the emphatic repetition of the root for ‘redeem’ in the Hebrew text (padoh yipdeh). We might paraphrase as ‘redeem by redemption’. The idea is that redemption by any earthly means is totally impossible.

    ‘Nor give to God a ransom for him.’ Indeed none is able to pay sufficient to satisfy God’s requirements. And that is because the price of redemption is too high (‘the redemption of their life is costly’) and all men’s efforts to achieve it can only fail (‘it fails for ever’).


    For he will see it.
    Wise men die,
    The fool and the brutish alike perish,
    And leave their wealth to others.’

    ‘For he will see it.’ The one who dies will see corruption whatever men do to prevent it. It will be just as true for the wise man as for the fool and brutish. All alike perish. And all alike leave their wealth to others.

    Man’s Vain Attempt To Perpetuate Himself Will Be In Vain Whatever He Does (49.11-13).

    Men do in their own ineffective way seek to perpetuate themselves. They think that they will live for ever in their children and their children. They set up establishments and foundations in their own name. And they vainly imagine that it will be perpetuated for ever. But it will always fail. Families die out, foundations fail, and any idea of the people themselves disappears into oblivion. Even Alexander the Great is but a bust and a name.


    Their inward thought is,
    That their houses will continue for ever,
    And their dwelling-places to all generations,
    They call their lands after their own names.
    But man being in honour abides not,’
    He is like the beasts which perish.
    This their way is their folly,
    Yet after them men approve their sayings. [Selah

    Man’s vanity and hopeless search for continued remembrance is well brought out here. They vainly hope that they will live on in their children’s children, that their houses will continue for ever. They vainly hope that their family residence will abide for ever. They even call their lands after their own name. Surely that will last for ever? But it does not. Sooner or later it will vanish from the combined memories of man.

    For no man’s honour is permanently abiding. Even those whose memories abide are at the mercy of historians and wits. They are not remembered as they would wish to have been. So the truth is that in the end men are like the beasts that perish, with the result that all their attempts to perpetuate themselves turn out to be but folly. And yet after them other foolish men actually approve of their attempts to perpetuate themselves. Such is the folly of mankind.

    But For The Upright There Is Hope. For Them There Is A Coming Morning and A Redemption (49.14-15).

    These two verses stand out on their own between the two ‘Selahs’. In them the fate of the unrighteous is contrasted with the of the upright. Once again we see in a Davidic Psalm his certainty that somehow God will not let him or the upright perish for ever. This is especially confirmed by the use of the term ‘redeem’ (same root as verse 8). Here there is a redemption. It is wrought by God Who alone can pay the price that is required

    49.14-15 ‘They are appointed as a flock for Sheol,

    Death will be their shepherd,
    And the upright will have dominion over them in the morning,
    And their beauty will be for Sheol to consume,
    That there be no habitation for it.
    But God will redeem my soul from the power of Sheol,
    For he will receive me. [Selah

    The truth is that like sheep follow one another without thought wherever the shepherd leads, so all these men described are appointed as a flock for the world of the grave, entering it by following their shepherd Death, with no way of escape . And all their wealth and beauty will be for the grave to consume. In Sheol there is nowhere for their wealth and beauty to be stored.

    But this is in contrast with the upright for whom there is to be a morning. ‘And the upright will trample over them (rule over them, triumph over them) in the morning’, Had it not been for what follows we might simply have seen this as signifying that they would live on and enjoy fullness of life, but the mention of redemption from Sheol argues strongly that such a redemption is indicated for the upright. For them there will be a resurrection morning when at last they receive their reward and triumph over those who have spurned them. Compare Isaiah 26.19. We can compare how on our behalf Christ rose again from the dead and triumphed over those who assailed Him (Colossians 2.15)

    This thought is confirmed by the certainty of the Psalmist himself that his soul will be redeemed from the power (literally ‘the hand’) of Sheol, so that God will receive him. In the light of the previous mention of a redemption so costly that no wealthy man can finance it, the thought must surely be that God Himself can pay that price. The Psalmist is therefore confident that he will be received into the presence of God. He possibly has in mind how Enoch walked with God, and ‘God took him’ (Genesis 5.22-24). A similar idea is in mind when Elijah was taken up into Heaven (2 Kings 2.11, 16-18). Both these examples indicated the possibility of the upright not finally dying. In view of the sacrifices that redeemed men from death it is not a great step from them to the possibility of a greater sacrifice that will redeem men from eternal death, but that is of course not mentioned here. It is, however, made more plain in Isaiah 53.10.

    For the Christian the significance is even clearer. Through the offering of Christ once and for all, the greatest price that was ever paid (see 1 Peter 1.18-19), the truly believing Christian has been redeemed from the grave and has been guaranteed eternal life through the resurrection.

    The Upright Are Not Therefore To Be Concerned About The Way That The Rich Seem To Flourish, For In The End The Rich Who Do Not Have True Understanding Will Simply Perish Like The Beasts (49.16-20).

    The Psalm ends with the assurance that there is no need to fear, or be puzzled, when the rich flourish and increase in wealth and glory, and lord it over men, because when those who lack true understanding die they will take nothing with them. They will no longer be rich. Their glory will not follow them. Rather they will go into everlasting darkness, and will be like the beasts which perish. It is very much a warning to the rich that they ensure that they walk in the ways of the Lord in all their doings.


    ‘Do not be afraid when one is made rich,
    When the glory of his house is increased.
    For when he dies he will carry nothing away,
    His glory will not descend after him.
    Though while he lived he blessed his soul,
    (And men praise you, when you do well to yourself,)
    He will go to the generation of his fathers,
    They will never see the light.
    Man who is in honour, and understands not,
    Is like the beasts which perish.

    Jesus may well have had this Psalm in mind when He told the story of the rich fool (Luke 12.13-20). The picture is of men who appear to be blessed because their prosperity grows and their glory and fame increases. But the Psalmist assures us that they are not to be envied. For when they die they will leave it all behind. And then they will receive the due reward of their behaviour. While they are alive they preen themselves, and ‘bless their souls’, and others praise them because they do well for themselves, but eventually they must go to those who have died before them, and once there they will be in perpetual darkness. ‘They will never see the light.’

    And the Psalmist ends the Psalm with the assurance that men who are held in honour on earth, but do not have true understanding (they do not walk in God’s ways), will simply be like the beasts that perish. For that is what by their behaviour they will have revealed themselves to be, mere brute beasts. (Compare how in Daniel 7 the people of God are likened to a ‘son of man’, while those who oppose God are seen as being like wild beasts).

    Psalm 50.


    ‘A Psalm of Asaph.’

    The Songs of the Sons of Korah having come to an end as far as Book 2 is concerned (42-49), we now have a Psalm of Asaph which stands on its own, presumably because it was seen as forming a bridge between Psalms 49 and 51. This Psalm will then be followed by a number of Psalms of David, and one of Solomon.

    As we will see later there are a number of Psalms of Asaph, but the remainder are in Book 3 (73-83) where they are followed by more songs of the Sons of Korah. Asaph was one of David’s three chief musicians, and ‘the sons of Asaph’ continued throughout the generations to provide music for the Temple (2 Chronicles 20.14; 29.13; 35.15. See also Ezra 2.41; 3.10; Nehemiah 7.44; 11.22). For further information see the introduction to Book 3.

    Like Psalm 49 this is a teaching Psalm, but more from a prophetic viewpoint. Note, for example, the importance of the divine utterance, the description of the theophany, the stress on spiritual worship as against sacrifice, and the denunciation of the wicked. Thus whereas Psalm 49 was addressed to ‘the peoples’, this Psalm is specifically concerning the people of YHWH. It contains a solemn picture of His judgment of them, as the mighty God YHWH calls on all the earth to witness as He sits to judge His people. It contains a firm warning that if they are to be able to depend on Him to answer them in the Day of Trouble, then they must walk rightly before Him and offer Him true worship.

    It can be divided up as follows:

    • 1). God is pictured as coming from Zion, surrounded by the symbols of His majesty described in terms of a tremendous storm. All are called on to witness His act of judgment on His covenant people whom He has caused to be gathered together (50.1-6).
    • 2). God speaks to the majority of His people who have not gone too badly astray and calls on them to recognise that what He requires of them is not sacrifices and offerings which are simply designed to ‘satisfy’ Him. What He requires from them is rather their true worship and obedience. Then they can be sure that He will respond to them in the day of trouble (50.7-15).
    • 3). God speaks to the ‘wicked’, the more overt covenant breakers, whom he sees as blatantly hypocritical, and outlines the activities that cut them off from His mercy. He points out that He is coming in order to ‘reprove’ them and put things right (50.16-21).
    • 4). God calls on all who have forgotten Him to consider, lest they finally discover that there is none to deliver, and promises that to those who truly praise Him and live rightly before Him, He will show the salvation of God (50.22-23).

    God Calls On The Whole Earth To Witness His Coming To Judge His People (50.1-6).

    This section can be divided up as follows:

    • Who it is Who is coming (verse 1).
    • Where He is coming from and how He is coming (verses 2).
    • The glory in which He is coming (verse 3).
    • The purpose of His coming (verses 4-6).

    Who It Is Who Is Coming (50.1).


    ‘The Mighty One, God, YHWH,
    He has spoken and called the earth,
    From the rising of the sun,
    To its going down.’

    The One Who is coming is El Elohim YHWH, the mighty God of Gods, YHWH. This unusual combination of divine names is found nowhere else in this particular formation. But the three names do appear together in Joshua 22.22, which speaks of YHWH El Elohim in a most solemn oath; Deuteronomy 4.31, where His people are told ‘YHWH your Elohim is a merciful El’; Deuteronomy 5.9, where God declares, ‘I YHWH your Elohim an a jealous El’, (compare Deuteronomy 6.15); and Deuteronomy 7.9 where His people are told, ‘YHWH your Elohim, He is Elohim, El the faithful.’

    The three names bring out three aspects of God. As El reveals Him as the Mighty One. As Elohim He reveals Himself as the Creator of Heaven and earth, the One Who is manifest through creation (19.1-6; Genesis 1.1). As YHWH He reveals Himself as Israel’s covenant God, the Self-revealing One (Exodus 3.14-15; 6.3; 20.2). And finally His universality is revealed in that He speaks to the whole known earth, and those who dwell in it, from where the sun rises in the east to where it sets in the west. All are under His sway and are to be interested in His verdict.

    Where He Is Coming From And How He Is Coming (50.2a).


    ‘Out of Zion,
    The perfection of beauty,
    God has shone forth.

    In the ancient days God shone forth from the Tabernacle (Exodus 40.34, 38). He also shone forth from Sinai and Mount Paran on behalf of His people (Deuteronomy 33.2). Now He is revealing Himself from Mount Zion. It is an open question whether ‘the perfection of beauty’ refers to Zion, or to God. (Do we read as ‘Zion which is the perfection of beauty’ (compare 48.2; Lamentations 2.15) or as ‘As the perfection of beauty God has shone forth’ - compare 29.2). Israel may well have seen Zion, where God dwelt, as the perfection of beauty because of the fact that He dwelt there, something confirmed in Lamentations 2.15, but the fulsome description might be seen as favouring the idea that it refers to God Himself. Lamentations 2.15 may then have arisen from a later application of this description to Zion on the basis of this Psalm. It is not really important. Under either interpretation the perfection of beauty is finally God’s.

    Israel did not believe that God was limited to Mount Zion, any more than they saw Him as limited to the Tabernacle or to Sinai. The point was rather that these were places where God had been pleased to manifest Himself on behalf of His people. They knew, however, that, in the words of Solomon, ‘even the Heaven of Heavens cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built’ (1 Kings 8.27).

    The Glory In Which He Is Coming (50.3b).


    Our God comes,
    And does not keep silence,
    Fire devours before him,
    And it is very tempestuous round about him.

    God is not coming in silence. He is coming to speak openly to His people, whether out of the splendour of Zion as indwelt by Him, or out of His own glorious splendour. And His glory is revealed as being like a mighty storm, with lightning devouring before Him, and a raging tempest swirling around Him. Compare 19.1-6. There also He was to be worshipped in ‘the beauty of holiness’.

    The vision of God as coming in a raging and violent storm is a regular one in Scripture. E.g. 18.7-14; 19.1-6; 97.2-5; Exodus 19.16-18; Isaiah 29.6. For God as a consuming fire see Deuteronomy 4.24; 9.3; Hebrews 12.29.

    The Purpose Of His Coming Is To Judge His People (50.4-6).


    He calls to the heavens above,
    And to the earth, that he may judge his people,
    Gather my saints together to me,
    Those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.
    And the heavens will declare his righteousness,
    For God is judge himself. [Selah

    It is stressed that He has come to pass judgment on His people. The call to Heaven and earth concerning His judgment of His people is paralleled in Deuteronomy 4.26, 32; 31.28; 32.1; Isaiah 1.2-3. Compare Micah 1.2; 6.1-2. They, including their inhabitants, are solemn witnesses who have seen all that has happened since creation.

    He desires that His people be gathered together, ‘Those who have made a covenant with me by sacrifice’. It is they who made a covenant with Him at Sinai through the blood of the sacrifices (Exodus 24), and are sealed by the blood of the covenant, something which they have ratified since then by continuing sacrifices, and it is they who are being called on to fulfil their responsibilities towards Him. Then the Heavens will declare His righteous judgments, because it is God Himself Who is judging.

    The call goes out to gather His ‘saints’ together. Note the use of ‘saints’ - chasid - who are those on whom He has set His covenant love (chesed), to signify the true people of God. The call may be addressed to the leaders of the people who normally summoned the assembly, or to the angels in Heaven (compare Matthew 24.31), or to Heaven and earth as a whole, or may simply be a general request indicating His desire that they might be gathered together. Whichever is true what matters is that His true people are brought together.

    ‘And the heavens will declare his righteousness.’ This may be stressing that because God is the judge, it is the Heavens and not earth who will declare His righteous judgment, or it may be indicating that the Heavens will confirm the righteousness of the Judge, because the Judge is God Himself. Either way the judgment can be seen as just and righteous.

    God Addresses His People As Defendants And Reveals That He Is Not Judging Them Because Of The Inadequacy of Their Physical Sacrifices, Which In Fact Are Not Needed By Him, But Because Of The Inadequacy Of Their Thanksgiving And Faithfulness To Their Vows (50.7-15).

    God assures them that He is not judging them because of the inadequacy of their sacrifices. Indeed they were not necessary for His sustenance because had He required sustenance the whole of nature was His, the world and all its fullness was available to Him. No what He rather requires is their offerings of thanksgiving, and their obedience to their vows. Then they can be sure that when they call on Him He will respond.

    We are reminded here of Samuel’s words to Saul in 1 Samuel 15.22, ‘has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen and respond than the fat of rams.’


    ‘Hear, O my people, and I will speak,
    O Israel, and I will testify to you,
    God, even your God am I.

    God now calls on Israel to listen to Him in what He says to them, for He wants to testify to them. And He reminds them of Who He is. He stresses that He is God, even their own God. That is why they should hear what He has to say.


    ‘I will not reprove you for your sacrifices,
    And your burnt-offerings are continually before me.
    I will take no bullock out of your house,
    Nor he-goats out of your folds.
    For every beast of the forest is mine,
    And the cattle on a thousand hills.’

    He assures them that He is not reproving them for the quality and number of their sacrifices. Indeed their burnt offerings are continually before Him. Thus it is not their ritual observance that is at fault.

    In fact He stresses that He wants nothing more from them in that regard. He will not take any bullock from their house, or he-goats from their fold, for He has no need of them. After all, every beast of the forest is His. He possesses the cattle on a thousand hills. (We have here a typical use of ‘a thousand’ to simply mean a large number. Israelites were not on the whole very numerate, and large numbers tended to be used in this way).


    ‘I know all the birds of the mountains,
    And the wild beasts of the field are mine.
    If I were hungry, I would not tell you,
    For the world is mine, and its fullness.’

    Continuing the same theme He stresses that He knows all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the countryside. Thus if He had been hungry He would not have needed to tell them, because the whole world was His, and all its fullness.

    In many polytheistic religions the belief was that their gods fed on sacrifices, and needed such sacrifices in order to maintain their welfare. But they are assured that this is not true of the God of Israel. He requires no sustenance from sacrifices. Thus they should recognise that their offerings and sacrifices are for their benefit, not His.


    ‘Will I eat the flesh of bulls,
    Or drink the blood of goats?
    Offer to God the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
    And pay your vows to the Most High,
    And call on me in the day of trouble,
    I will deliver you, and you will glorify me.’

    To suggest therefore that God would eat the flesh of bulls or would drink the blood of goats when they were offered in sacrifice was ludicrous. No. The truth was that what God required of them was the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and the performance of their vows to serve and worship Him faithfully. In other words He sought their spiritual worship and gratitude, and their fulfilling of their promises. As long as they offered these things they could then be sure that when they called on Him in the day of trouble, He would deliver them, so that they could give glory to God, and give Him glory by their testimony. He is not here speaking of the ‘thanksgiving sacrifice’ of Leviticus 7.12, but of genuine thanksgiving as being itself the ‘sacrifice’ that is pleasing to Him.

    It is similar to the worship that is required in the New Testament. ‘Through Him (Who sanctified us through His own blood) therefore let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that make confession to His Name. Do not neglect to do good, and to share what you have with others, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased’ (Hebrews 13.15-16). Man looks at ritual. God looks at the heart.

    God Speaks To The ‘Wicked’, The More Overt Covenant Breakers, Whom He Sees As Blatantly Hypocritical, And Outlines The Activities That Cut Them Off From His Mercy. He Points Out That He Is Coming In Order To ‘Reprove’ Them And Put Things Right (50.16-21).


    ‘But to the wicked God says,
    What have you to do to declare my statutes,
    And that you have taken my covenant in your mouth,
    Seeing you hate instruction,
    And cast my words behind you?’

    God challenges ‘the wicked’ for their hypocrisy in that they hate His instruction and cast His words behind them, and yet declare His statutes and take His covenant in their mouths. In Israelite society this was almost inevitable for any who wanted to demonstrate their respectability and yet had no wish really to obey God, but that gave them no excuse before God. Rather the opposite. In the same way today many pay lip service to God, but by their lives they deny Him.

    The Psalmist then goes on to give examples of their disobedience to God’s instruction and statutes., demonstrating how they ‘cast His words behind them’.


    ‘When you saw a thief, you consented with him,
    And have been partaker with adulterers.
    You give your mouth to evil,
    And your tongue frames deceit.
    You sit and speak against your brother,
    You slander your own mother’s son.
    These things have you done, and I kept silence,
    You thought that I was altogether such a one as yourself,
    But I will reprove you,
    And set things in order before your eyes.’

    Examples of their perfidy are now presented in detail. Instead of convicting thieves, they allow them to get away with it, and share with them in their ill-gotten gains. They have partaken in adultery and not reproved it in others. They speak evil with their mouths, and deceive with their tongues, both by bearing false witness, and by general deception and lies. They even deliberately (they sit) and slanderously speak out wrongly and untruthfully about their own family. And foolishly they think that because God appears to do nothing about it, He is not concerned about it. They think that God is like themselves.

    However, He assures them that He is not such a one as themselves. Let them recognise that He will reprove them severely and put things right in front of their eyes. Note the contrast with verse 8 where God did not reprove them in respect of their sacrifices. Now we know that He will, however, reprove them because of their sins. And we should recognise that God’s reproof can be severe and devastating, especially when He sets about putting things right. Large parts of the most painful parts of Israel’s history occurred because of His reproof, and because He was seeking to put things right.

    A Final Plea To All His Covenant People (50.22-23).

    God now makes a final plea to them to consider their ways, and not forget Him. For if they do He will stand by when they are being torn in pieces and will not deliver them. For His salvation is only available to those who offer up to Him the ‘sacrifice’ of genuine thanksgiving, and order their ways aright.


    ‘Now consider this,
    You who forget God,
    Lest I tear you in pieces,
    And there be none to deliver,
    Whoever offers the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
    Glorifies me,
    And to him who orders his way aright ,
    Will I show the salvation of God.

    God closes by calling on those who have ‘forgotten’ Him in their lives to consider what He says lest He tear them in pieces like a wild animal tears its prey, and there is no one to deliver them at the time of their distress.

    Indeed He wants them to recognise that His deliverance is only available to those who glorify Him by offering to Him the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and who order their way aright. It is to such that He will show the salvation of God. (‘Aright’ is not in the text but clearly has to be read in. The point is that in ‘ordering their way’ rather than living loosely they are doing so in terms of God’s requirements).

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