Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
This also purports to be a psalm of David. It is dedicated to "the chief Musician," or committed to him to be set to appropriate music for the public worship of God. See the notes at the Introduction to Psa 4:1-8. It is described as both "a psalm," and "a song." It is not easy to account for this double appellation, or to distinguish between the meaning of these words, though probably the real distinction is that the former word - psalm - refers to that to which it is applied, considered merely as a poem or composition; the latter - song - is applied with reference to its being sung in public worship. See Introduction to Psa 48:1-14.
Though the psalm is ascribed to David, and though there is nothing in its general character which is inconsistent with this supposition, yet it has been maintained by DeWette and some others that the expressions in Psa 65:4 demonstrate that the psalm was composed after the temple was erected. The ground of this supposition is, that the words "courts," "house," and "holy temple," occurring in that verse, are applicable only to the temple. This, however, is not decisive, for all these words may have been used in reference to the tabernacle, or to the tent which David erected on Mount Zion Ch2 1:4, and where he was accustomed to worship. Compare the notes at Psa 65:4. If this is so, then there is nothing to forbid the supposition that the psalm was composed by David. Compare also the notes at Psa 65:1.
The occasion on which it was written is not indicated in the title, and it is impossible now to determine it. It would seem from the psalm itself to have been composed after a copious and much-needed rain, perhaps after a long drought, when the earth was again refreshed by showers from heaven. The language, however, is of so general character that it may have had no particular reference to any recent event in the time of the psalmist, but may have been suggested, like Ps. 104, by a general contemplation of the power and the beneficence of God as manifested in his providential dealings. Possibly it may have been a song composed for some annual occasion, recounting the acts of God in the revolving seasons of the year - the general reasons which his people had to praise him. It evidently refers to some public solemnity - some acts of praise to be rendered to God in his house Psa 65:1, Psa 65:4, and would be eminently appropriate when his people approached him in an annual thanksgiving.
The contents of the psalm are as follows:
I. The blessedness of praising God, or of coming before him, in his house, with the language of prayer and praise, Psa 65:1-4.
(a) Praise "waits" for God;
(b) he is the hearer of prayer;
(c) he alone can cleanse the soul from sin;
(d) it is a blessed privilege to be permitted to come before him, and to dwell in his courts.
II. The things for which he is to be praised, Psa 65:5-13.
(1) he is to be praised for the exhibitions of his power, or as the Almighty God; as one who answers the prayers of his people by heavy judgments; as one who shows that all may have confidence in him, on the earth and on the sea; as one who makes the mountains firm, who stills the noise of the waves, who calms the tumults of the people, who displays the tokens of his power everywhere, and makes the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice, Psa 65:5-8.
(2) for his beneficence, especially in sending down refreshing rains upon the earth, and causing the grain to spring up, the grass to grow, and the hills to rejoice on every side, Psa 65:9-13.
Praise waiteth for thee, O God, in Sion - That is, all the arrangements are made; the people are assembled; their hearts are prepared to praise thee. The fact that Zion is mentioned here as the seat of praise would seem to imply that this psalm was composed before the building of the temple, contrary to the opinion of DeWette and others, as noticed in the Introduction to the psalm, for after the building of the temple the seat of worship was transferred from Mount Zion, where David had placed the ark and prepared a tent for it Ch1 15:1; Ch1 16:1; Ch2 1:4, to Mount Moriah. It is true that the general name Zion was given familiarly to Jerusalem as a city, but it is also true that the particular place for the worship of God in the time of David was Mount Zion strictly so called. See the notes at Psa 2:6. The margin in this place is, "Praise is silent." The Hebrew is, "To thee is silence-praise," - a kind of compound phrase, not meaning "silent praise," but referring to a condition where everything is ready; where the preparations have been entirely made; where the noise usually attendant on preparation has ceased, and all is in readiness as if waiting for that for which the arrangements had been carried forward. The noise of building - of preparation - was now hushed, and all was calm. The language here would also denote the state of feeling in an individual or an assembly, when the heart was prepared for praise; when it was filled with a deep sense of the majesty and goodness of God; when all feelings of anxiety were calmed down, or were in a state of rest; when the soul was ready to burst forth in expressions of thanksgiving, and nothing would meet its needs but praise.
And unto thee shall the vow be performed - See Psa 22:25, note; Psa 50:14, note; Psa 56:12, note. The reference here is to the vows or promises which the people had made in view of the manifested judgments of God and the proofs of his goodness. Those vows they were now ready to carry out in expressions of praise.
O thou that hearest prayer - Who hast revealed thyself as a God hearing prayer - one of the leading characteristics of whose nature it is that thou dost hear prayer. Literally, "Hearer of prayer, to thee shall all flesh come." Nothing as applied even to God is more sublime and beautiful than the appellative "Hearer of prayer." Nothing in his attributes is of more interest and importance to man. Nothing more indicates his condescension and goodness; nothing so much encourages us in the endeavor to overcome our sins, to do good, to save our souls, and to save the souls of others. Dark and dismal would this world be, if God did not hear prayer; gloomy, inexpressibly gloomy, would be the prospects of man, if he had not the assurance that God is a prayer-hearing God - if he might not come to God at all times with the assurance that it is his very nature to hear prayer, and that his ear is ever open to the cries of the guilty, the suffering, the sad, the troubled, the dying.
Unto thee shall all flesh come - That is, all people - for the word is here used evidently to denote mankind. The idea is, that there is no other resource for man, no other help, no other refuge, but the God that hears prayer. No other being can meet his actual needs; and those needs are to be met only in connection with prayer. All people are permitted to come thus to God; all have need of his favor; all must perish unless, in answer to prayer, he interposes and saves the soul. It is also true that the period will arrive on earth when all flesh - all people - will come to God and worship him; when, instead of the scattered few who now approach him, all nations, all the dwellers on continents and islands, will worship him; will look to him in trouble; will acknowledge him as God; will supplicate his favor.
Iniquities prevail against me - Margin, as in Hebrew, Words, or matters of iniquities. The literal meaning is words; and the idea may be that words spoken in iniquity, or slanderous words spoken by others, prevailed against him. The phrase, however, is susceptible of the interpretation which refers it to iniquity itself; meaning the matter of iniquity - the thing - iniquity itself - as if that overcame him, or got the mastery of him. The psalmist here, in his own name, seems to represent the people who thus approached God, for the psalm refers to the worship of an assembly or a congregation. The idea is, that when they thus came before God; when they had prepared all things for his praise Psa 65:1; when they approached him in an attitude of prayer, they were so bowed down under a load of transgression - a weight of sin - as to hinder their easy access to his throne. They were so conscious of unworthiness; their sin had such an effect on their minds; it rendered them so dull, cold, and stupid, that they could not find access to the throne of God. How often do the people of God find this to be the case!
As for our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away - That is, In reference to these very transgressions or iniquities that now press us down, thou wilt remove them. The language expresses the rising confidence and hope of the worshippers that God would not allow those transgressions so to prevail as to prevent their worshipping God acceptably. Heavy as was the burden of sin, and much as the consciousness of guilt tended to impede their worship, yet they felt assured that God would so remove their transgressions that they might have access to his mercy-seat. The word rendered "purge away" - כפר kâphar - is the word which is commonly rendered "to atone for," or which is used to represent the idea of atonement. See the notes at Isa 43:3. The word has here the sense of cleansing or purifying, but it always carries with it, in the Scriptures, a reference to that through which the heart is cleansed - the atonement, or the expiatory offering made for sin. The language here expresses the feeling which all may have, and should have, and which very many do have, when they approach God, that, although they are deeply conscious of sin, God will so graciously remove the guilt of sin, and lift off the burden, cleansing the soul by his grace, as to make it not improper that we should approach him, and that he will enable us to do it with peace, and joy, and hope. Compare the notes at Psa 51:2.
Blessed is the man whom thou choosest - That is, Happy is the man; or, "Oh, the happiness of the man whom thou dost thus permit to approach thee." The construction here in the Hebrew is the same as in Psa 1:1. See the notes at that passage. The word choosest refers to the fact that true piety regards all such blessings as the result of the divine favor; the fruit of his electing grace and love. Compare the notes at Eph 1:3-4; notes at Pe1 1:2-3. We approach God with confidence, with the spirit of true worshippers, with the spirit of his children, only as he inclines us to him, and calls us to partake of his favor. Compare Joh 6:44.
And causest to approach unto thee - That is, that he may worship thee. The idea is here recognized in the word "causest," that it is only by a divine influence that people are led to worship God. The cause - the efficient reason - why any man worships his Maker at all, is to be found in God himself. This idea is fairly implied in the form of the word as it is used in the Hebrew.
That he may dwell in thy courts - That is, either temporarily for the purpose of worship; or permanently, that he may serve thee in the sanctuary. See Psa 23:6, note; Psa 27:4, note. Compare Psa 15:1. The word "courts" refers properly to the area around the tabernacle or the temple, and not to the tabernacle or temple itself. The worship of the people was offered in those courts, and not in the tabernacle or temple. See the notes at Mat 21:12.
We shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house - Our souls will find thus what they need; what they long for. See the notes at Psa 36:8. It is the nature of religion to satisfy the mind; that is, the soul finds in religion what meets its needs, for religion leaves no necessity of its nature unsupplied. It may be added that nothing else will do this but religion. The word "house" here denotes a place where God dwells, and it might be applied to the temple, as it often is in the Scriptures (compare Isa 2:3; Isa 56:7; Mat 21:13; Mar 11:17; Luke 19:443; Joh 2:16; et al.); or to the tabernacle, before the temple was reared. Psa 42:4; Mat 12:4; Jdg 18:31; Jdg 20:18, Jdg 20:26, Jdg 20:31. The reference here is to the tabernacle or tent which David reared on Mount Zion, and where the worship of God was celebrated before the temple was built. "Even of thy holy temple." The word "temple" is most commonly applied in the Scriptures to the structure which Solomon built for the worship of God; and it is on the ground that the Word is usually so applied, that DeWette and others have argued that this psalm could not have been written by David, but that it was composed after the temple was reared. But the word rendered "temple" - היכל hêykâl - is a word of so general a character that it may be applied to any house erected for the worship of God. It is not unfrequently applied to the tabernacle. See the notes at Psa 5:7. This psalm, therefore, may have been composed while the tabernacle was standing, and before the temple was built, and hence, may have been composed by David, as the title intimates.
By terrible things in righteousness wilt thou answer us - That is, By things suited to inspire us and all people with awe, or with a deep sense of thy majesty, thy power, and thy glory. The answer to their prayers would be in such a manner as deeply to impress their minds and hearts. God's judgments on his foes, and the manner of his manifesting his favor to his people, would be such as to impress the mind with a deep sense of his own greatness. Yet all this would be in righteousness; in the infliction of a just sentence on the wicked; in direct interposition in favor of the righteous. The judgments of God on guilty people have been always such as to keep the world in awe; such as were adapted deeply to impress mankind with a sense of his own majesty and glory.
O God of our salvation - The God on whom our salvation, or our safety depends.
Who art the confidence of all the ends of the earth - Of all parts of the earth, the word "ends" being used on the supposition that the earth is a plain having appropriate limits. This allusion is often found in the Scriptures, the sacred writers speaking, as all men do, as things appear to be. Thus all philosophers, as well as other people, speak of the sun as rising and setting, which is, in itself, no more strictly accurate than it is to speak of the earth as if it had limits or boundaries. The word confidence as used here means that God is the source of trust, or, that all proper reliance, by all people, in all parts of the earth and on the sea, must be in him; that is, that there is no other on whom people can properly rely. It does not mean that all people actually repose such confidence in him, which would not be true - but that he is the only true source of confidence.
And of them that are afar off upon the sea - That is, of all men on sea and land. The seaman has no other source of security amidst the dangers of the deep than God. Compare Psa 107:23-30. The language does not mean that all mariners actually do put their trust in God, but that they cannot confide in the winds and the waves - in the strength of their vessel - or their own power or skill in managing it - but that the true and only ground of trust is God.
Which by his strength setteth fast the mountains - Fixing them firm on their foundations. This is an exhibition of vast strength or power on the part of God, as if he fixed them so firm that they could not be moved - as if he handled with ease those vast masses of matter, with all their rocks and forests - and caused them to repose steadily and calmly on their foundations. We have few more exalted conceptions of the power of God than to suppose him lifting with ease a vast mountain; letting it down where he pleases, and settling it so firmly that it cannot be moved.
Being girded with power - That is, they seemed to be surrounded or encompassed with power, as a man girds himself up when he wishes to put forth a great effort of strength.
Which stilleth the noise of the seas - He calms the seas when they have been agitated by the storm. He causes the mighty waves to settle down, and the whole surface of the ocean becomes calm and smooth. The storm subsides at his command, and the sea is still. It was the manifestation of this power which demonstrated so clearly the divinity of the Lord Jesus, when he said to the troubled waves, "Peace, be still, and the wind ceased, and there was a great calm." Mar 4:39. Compare Psa 107:29.
The noise of their waves - The loud roar of the waters, so that they are still.
And the tumult of the people - The raging; the fury; the excitement of assembled multitudes, resembling the raging waves of the ocean. This comparison is very common. See Isa 17:12-13. Compare the notes at Rev 19:6. This is perhaps a more striking and wonderful exhibition of the power of God than that of calming down the waves of the ocean. In the one case, it is the exertion of mere power on nature, acting through its established laws, and where there is no resistance of will; in the other, it is power exerted over the will; power over agents conscious that they are free, and where the worst passions meet and mingle and rage.
They also that dwell in the utter-most parts - That is, Those who dwell in the remotest regions; far from civilized lands; far from those places where people are instructed as to the causes of the events which occur, and as to the being and character of the great God who performs these wonders. The idea is, that even they see enough of the evidences of the divine presence and power to fill their minds with awe. In other words, there are in all lands evidences of the Divine existence and might. There is enough to fill the minds of people with awe, and to make them solemn.
Are afraid - Thus the thunder, the storm, the tempest, the earthquake, the eclipse of the sun or the moon, fill the minds of barbarous nations with terror.
At thy tokens - Or signs. That is, the signs which really indicate the existence, the presence, and the power of God.
Thou makest the outgoings - The word rendered outgoings means properly a going forth, as of the rising of the sun Psa 19:7; and then, a place of going forth, or from which anything goes forth, as a gate or door Eze 42:11, or fountains from which water issues Isa 41:18; and hence, the east, where the sun seems to come forth from his hiding-place. The representation here is that the morning seems to come forth, or that the rays of light stream out from the east; and, in like manner, that the fading light of the evening - the twilight - seems to come from the west.
Of the morning and evening to rejoice - The allusion is to the east and the west. The sun in his rising and his setting seems to rejoice; that is, he appears happy, bright, cheerful. The margin is to sing - a poetic expression indicating exultation and joy.
Thou visitest the earth - God seems to come down that he may attend to the needs of the earth; survey the condition of things; arrange for the welfare of the world which he has made; and supply the needs of those whom he has created to dwell upon it. See the notes at Psa 8:4.
And waterest it - Margin, After thou hadst made it to desire rain. This difference between the translations in the text and in the margin can be accounted for by the various meanings of the original word. The Hebrew term - שׁוק shûq - means properly:
(a) to run;
(b) to run after anything, to desire, to look for;
(c) to run over, to overflow; and then,
(d) to cause to overflow.
The meaning here evidently is, he drenched the earth, or caused the water to run abundantly. The reference is to a copious rain after a drought.
Thou greatly enrichest it - That is, Thou givest to it abundance; thou pourest water upon it in such quantities, and in such a manner, as to make it rich in its productions.
With the river of God - A river so abundant and full that it seems to come from God; it is such as we should expect to flow from a Being infinite in resources and in benevolence. Anything great is in the Scriptures often described as belonging to God, or his name is added to it to denote its greatness. Thus, hills of God mean lofty hills; cedars of God, lofty cedars, etc.
Which is full of water - The waters are so abundant that it seems as if they must come from God.
Thou preparest them corn - Grain. Thou givest to those who cultivate the earth an abundant harvest.
When thou hast so provided for it - Or rather, When thou hast thus prepared the earth, to wit, by sending down abundant rains upon it. God prepares the earth to bear an abundant harvest, and then he gives that harvest. The preparation of the earth for the harvest, and then the givinq of the harvest, are alike from him. The harvest could not be without the previous rain, and neither the rain nor the harvest could be without God. He does not create a harvest by miracle, but follows the order which he has himself ordained, and has respect to his own laws.
Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly - Or rather, its furrows, for so the Hebrew word properly means. Job 31:38; Job 39:10. The allusion is to the furrows made by the plow, which are filled with water by the rains.
Thou settlest the furrows thereof - Or rather, thou beatest down the ridges thereof. Literally, thou makest them to descend. That is, The rain - falling on them - beats them down, so that the ground becomes level.
Thou makest it soft with showers - Margin, thou dissolvest it. The idea is, to soften, to loosen, to make the soil light and open. All farmers know that this is necessary, and that it cannot be done without water.
Thou blessest the springing thereof - Or, what springs from it; the vegetation. Thou dost bless it by causing it to grow luxuriantly, thus producing an abundant harvest.
Thou crownest the year with thy goodness - Margin, the year of thy goodness. The Hebrew is literally the year of thy goodness - meaning a year remarkable for the manifestation of kindness; or a year of abundant productions. But the Hebrew will admit of the other construction, meaning that God crowns or adorns the year, as it revolves, with his goodness; or that the harvests, the fruits, the flowers of the year are, as it were, a crown set on the head of the year. The Septuagint renders it, "Thou wilt bless the crown of the year of thy goodness." DeWette renders it, "Thou crownest the year with thy blessing." Luther, "Thou crownest the year with good." On the whole, the most probable meaning is that expressed in our common version, referring to the beauty and the abundant productions of the year as if they were a crown on its head. The seasons are often personified, and the year is here represented as a beautiful female, perhaps, walking forward with a diadem on her brow.
And thy paths drop fatness - That is, fertility; or, Fertility attends thy goings. The word rendered "drop," means properly to distil; to let fall gently, as the rain or the dew falls to the earth; and the idea is, that whereever God goes, marching through the earth, fertility, beauty, abundance seems to distil or to fall gently along his path. God, in the advancing seasons, passes along through the earth, and rich abundance springs up wherever he goes.
They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness - The waste places, or the waste parts of the land; the uncultivated places, the places of rocks and sands. The word wilderness in the Scriptures does not mean, as with us, a tract of country covered with trees, but a place of barren rocks or sands - an uncultivated or thinly inhabited region. See the notes at Mat 3:1; notes at Isa 35:1. In those wastes, however, there would be valleys, or places watered by springs and streams that would afford pastures for flocks and herds. Such are the "pastures of the wilderness" referred to here. God's passing along those valleys would seem to "drop," or distil, fertility and beauty, causing grass and flowers to spring up in abundance, and clothing them with luxuriance.
And the little hills rejoice on every side - Margin, as in Hebrew, are girded with joy. That is, Joyful, happy scenes surround them; or, they seem to be full of joy and happiness. The valleys and the hills alike seem to be made glad. The following remarks of Professor Hackett ("Illustrations of Scripture," p. 30), will explain this passage. "Another peculiarity of the desert is that, though the soil is sandy, it rarely consists, for successive days together, of mere sand; it is interspersed, at frequent intervals, with clumps of coarse grass and low shrubs, affording very good pasturage, not only for camels, the proper tenants of the desert, but for sheep and goats. The people of the villages on the borders of the desert are accustomed to lead forth their flocks to the pastures found there. We frequently passed on our way shepherds so employed; and it was interesting to observe as a verification of what is implied in the Saviour's statement Mat 25:33, that the sheep and goats were not kept distinct, but intermixed with one another. The shepherds not only frequent the parts of the desert near their places of abode, but go often to a considerable distance from them; they remain absent for weeks and months, only changing their station from time to time, as their needs in respect to water and herbage may require. The incident related of Moses shows that the pastoral habits of the people were the same in his day: 'Now Moses kept the flock of Jethro, his father-in-law, the priest of Midian; and he led the flock to the further part of the desert, even to Horeb,' Exo 3:1. It is of the desert in this sense, as supplying to some extent the means of pasturage, that the prophet Joel speaks in Joe 1:19; Joe 2:22. The psalmist also says Psa 65:12-13, with the same reference:
Thou crownest the year with thy goodness,
And thy paths drop fatness;
They drop fatness on the pastures of the wilderness.
The pastures are clothed with flocks - The flocks stand so thick together, and are spread so far, that they seem to be a clothing for the pasture; or, the fields are entirely covered with them.
The valleys also are covered over with corn - With grain. That is, the parts of the land - the fertile valleys - which are devoted to tillage. They are covered over, or clothed with waving grain, as the pasture-fields are with flocks.
They shout for joy, they also sing - They seem to be full of joy and happiness. What a beautiful image is this! How well does it express the loveliness of nature; how appropriately does it describe the goodness of God! Everything seems to be happy; to be full of song; and all this is to be traced to the goodness of God, as it all serves to express that goodness. Strange that there should be an atheist in such a world as this; - strange that there should be an unhappy man; - strange that amidst such beauties, while all nature joins in rejoicing and praise - pastures, cultivated fields, valleys, hills - there can be found a human being who, instead of uniting in the language of joy, makes himself miserable by attempting to cherish the feeling that God is not good!