Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The author of this psalm is not indicated in the title, and it is impossible now to ascertain who he was. Nor can the occasion be determined "when" it was composed. It is of so general a character that it might have been written at any period of the Jewish history; and, so far as the style and the contents are concerned, it may have been written by either of those whose names are attached to the other psalms. That it may have been composed by David, is certainly possible, but of that there is no evidence.
In the title it is called "A Psalm or Song for the sabbath-day;" that is, to be used on the sabbath. The Chaldee Paraphrase has in the title, "Praise and a song which the first man spoke for the sabbath-day." This may indicate that there was an carly tradition on this subject; but we have no proof of what would be so interesting a fact, that we have a genuine poetic composition of Adam. The contents are all such as might be properly used on the sabbath, though there is nothing in the psalm that has any "special" reference to the sabbath, or that is derived from the appointment of such a day. It is not improbable, however, that special psalms and hymns were composed with a view to be used on festal occasions; and this, as a psalm of praise, is well adapted still to the services of the sabbath.
The psalmist refers:
I. To the blessedness of praise, or to the propriety of celebrating the praise of God, Psa 92:1-4.
II. He refers to the works of God as laying the foundation of praise, Psa 92:5-6.
III. He refers to the justice of God, or the fact that the wicked, however they may seem to be prospered, will be cut off, Psa 92:7-9.
IV. He refers to the prosperity and the security of the righteous; to the influence of religion and the favor of God on life, as making it prosperous and happy, and as preparing people to be useful and cheerful in old age, Psa 92:10-15.
It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord - literally, "Good is it to give thanks unto Jehovah." That is, the act is appropriate; the effect is good.
(1) The thing itself is appropriate, for there is much, under all circumstances, to be thankful for: life, health, food, raiment, air, water, friends, recollections, hopes - and, above all, the blessings of redemption, and the assurance that we may be happy forever. Many of these things may be found in the condition of all; but if all else fail, the hope of heaven - the assurance that the Redeemer died - the offer of salvation - cannot fail. That is ours, and cannot be taken away.
(2) The effect is good. It is a desirable state of mind. It tends to happiness, contentment, peace. A gloomy mind makes all things around more gloomy; an unthankful mind is an unhappy mind; a murmuring, complaining, dissatisfied mind makes its possessor wretched, and all around him miserable.
(3) it is good as it is due to God. For all his favor we should be thankful - and all that we enjoy is his gift.
(4) it tends much to lessen the real troubles and afflictions of life to dwell on those things for which we should be thankful.
And to sing praises unto thy name - Unto thee. As this psalm was designed for the "Sabbath day," this proves that one of the appropriate services of the Sabbath is "praise." It is a day when it is fit to recall the mercies of God to our recollection; and the remembrance of those mercies, and their celebration by appropriate songs, tend to diffuse joy over all the coming days of the week.
O Most High - God exalted over all. The fact that "he" is exalted over all - over us - over our friends - over all worlds - is an appropriate thought when we come before him to praise him; appropriate at all times, and in all circumstances of life.
To show forth thy loving-kindness - To celebrate thy mercy; thy goodness; thy love.
In the morning - That is, there is a fitness in doing this in the morning; or, there are special reasons why we should do this at that time.
(a) We have been preserved through the dangers of the night; dangers when we were asleep, unconscious, and defenseless.
(b) Life is then, as it were, a new gift - for we are raised from "the image of death" - sleep - and we should regard life then "as if" we had been raised from the dead.
(c) To praise God in the morning will have a good influence on us, in promoting cheerfulness; in making us benignant and kind; in preparing us for the toils and trials of the day.
There is no better preparation for a day, in view of its burdens, cares, toils, and trials, than a thankful, cheerful mind in the morning. He who begins a day with a sour, a morose, a complaining, an irritable spirit - who has been preserved through the night, and sees nothing to be thankful for in the morning - will be a miserable man through the day, and will make all miserable around him. He who sees nothing to be thankful for in the morning will see nothing to hope for in the day; he who has no gratitude for the past, will have no bright anticipations of the future.
And thy faithfulness - Faithfulness in the laws of nature; in thy promises; in thy character: in thy providential dealings with people.
Every night - Margin, in the nights." The reference is to the return of evening; and the meaning is, that it is a good thing, or that it is appropriate to contemplate the faithfulness of God at the close of every day.
(a) The mind is then calm, after the toils of the day are over.
(b) The time - evening - its stillness - its twilight - its approaching darkness - all is favorable for reflection.
(c) There is much in every day to be thankful for, and it is well to recall it at night.
(d) It has a happy effect on the mind when we are about to lie down to rest, to recall the mercies of God; to reflect on what he has done for us; to gather, from his kindness in the past, lessons of confidence and hope for the times to come.
We lie down at night more calmly in proportion as we are disposed at the close of a day to think of the mercies which we have received at the hand of God; and the recalling of those mercies to remembrance with the voice, and with instruments of praise, is always an appropriate mode of closing a day.
Upon an instrument of ten strings - The general idea in this verse is, that instruments "of all kinds" are to be employed in celebrating the praises of God. On the instrument here referred to, see the notes at Psa 33:2.
And upon the psaltery - Or "lyre." See the notes at Isa 5:12. The word is there translated viol.
Upon the harp with a solemn sound - Margin, upon the solemn sound with the harp." Prof. Alexander renders this, "On meditation with a harp." On the word rendered "harp," see the notes at Isa 5:12. The Hebrew word rendered "solemn sound" is הגיון higgâyôn which means properly "murmur;" then, the sound of a harp; and then, meditation. See the notes at Psa 9:16. Here the meaning seems to be, "with murmurs upon the harp;" that is, with the sound of the harp - its murmuring tones. It does not denote here a distinct instrument of music, but it refers to the tones of the harp: not to the meditations of the mind - of the worshipper - but to the low and gentle sounds of the instrument itself.
For thou, Lord, hast made me glad - Thou hast made me happy; thou hast given me such a state of feeling as finds an appropriate expression in "praise."
Through thy work - Either the work of creation, the finishing of which the Sabbath was designed particularly to commemorate; or the works of God in general - the universe; or the general dealings of his providence; or some particular interpositions of Providence in his behalf that called for special praise. All these are appropriately combined in the celebrations - the praises - of the Sabbath; to these should be added, as among the most marvelous of his works, and that which furnishes special occasion for praise on the Christian Sabbath, the wonderful work of redemption - that which of all the "works" of God makes a heart rightly affected most "glad."
I will triumph - I will exult or rejoice.
In the works of thy hands - In all thy works; in all that thou hast done.
O Lord, how great are thy works! - Compare Psa 8:3; Psa 40:5. See also the notes at Job 11:7. The meaning here is this: The psalmist, on the Sabbath, in giving himself to meditation on the works of God, is overwhelmed with a sense of their vastness, their incomprehensible nature, and the depth of wisdom evinced, far beyond the grasp of man, in what God had done. How soon is man lost; how soon does he get beyond his depth; how soon does he feel that here is greatness which he cannot comprehend, and wisdom which he cannot fathom, and goodness which he cannot appreciate, when he sits down to meditate on the works of God!
And thy thoughts are very deep - Compare Isa 28:29; Rom 11:33-34. The meaning is, that the plans or the purposes of God, as evinced in the works of creation and providence, are too profound for man to understand them. Who but God himself can comprehend them?
A brutish man knoweth not - A man who is stupid, and who is like the beasts or brutes; that is, a man whose tastes and propensities are like the brutes, or who does not seem to act as if endowed with a rational nature. The idea evidently is, that there are many such people, and that it is not to be wondered at that they have no exalted idea of the greatness of God. As a matter of fact there are many in human form - many made in the image of God - who seem to have no more notion of God, and who see no more wisdom and goodness in his works, than the horse or the ox. Compare Isa 1:3.
Neither doth a fool understand this - A fool, in the sense that he has been made foolish and stupid by sin; that he does not worship and honor God. He has no right understanding in regard to the Maker and the Governor of the universe.
When the wicked spring as the grass - When they grow up as plants do; when they seem to flourish and prosper. Compare Psa 90:5-6; Psa 37:2, Psa 37:35, Psa 37:38. The word "grass" here refers to the vegetable creation generally, embracing plants and flowers of all kinds.
And when all the workers of iniquity do flourish - As plants and flowers do. They are like vigorous plants; not like the stunted and dry shrubs of the desert.
It is that they shall be destroyed for ever - The meaning here is, not that the design of their being thus made to flourish is that they should be destroyed, or that they are made to flourish for that purpose, but that such "will be" the result. They will not be made happy in another world by their prosperous and prospered wickedness here, as if God approved of their course; but the end will be that they will be destroyed forever. The design of the psalmist seems to be to turn the mind from the idea that mere external prosperity is necessarily connected with happiness; or that one who is prospered in this life is on that account safe. There is another world, and "there" ample justice will be done to all. See Psa 73:16-20.
But thou, Lord, art most high for evermore - In the treatment of the righteous and the wicked, thou wilt maintain thine own exalted place as a sovereign. Whatever may occur to people, God will maintain this exalted position as supreme over all.
For, lo, thine enemies, O Lord, for, lo, thine enemies shall perish - The repetition of the word "lo" here - "behold!" - is emphatic. The attention of the psalmist was fixed on this as an event which would be sure to occur. It was certain that God would be exalted; it followed from this, that all his enemies would be subdued in order that he might be thus exalted.
All the workers of iniquity shall be scattered - More literally, "shall scatter or disperse themselves;" implying eagerness and activity, as if they were in haste to flee away. The allusion is to an army that is discomfited, disorganized, "demoralized," and scattered; or to chaff that is dispersed by the wind. See Job 21:18; Isa 17:13; Isa 29:5; Hos 13:3.
But my horn shalt thou exalt - The horn is a symbol of strength or power (see the notes at Psa 18:2); and the meaning here is, that, while the wicked would be cut off, he would be prospered; that is, he had such confidence that he was the friend of God, that he believed God would honor him and exalt him. The psalmist here speaks of himself not so much with reference to his own particular case, but as the representative of the righteous. The idea is, that God will thus exalt "a righteous man."
Like the horn of an unicorn - Supposed to be remarkable for the strength of its horn. On the animal here referred to, see the notes at Job 39:9; compare Psa 22:21.
I shall be anointed with fresh oil - Oil pure and sweet; not old and rancid. That is, he would be made happy, cheerful, bright, and prosperous. Anointing with oil in the East was the symbol of all this, or was equivalent to what we mean by putting on festive apparel - holiday apparel. Compare the notes at Psa 23:5.
Mine eye also shall see my desire - That is, I shall be permitted to see the destruction of my foes; I shall be gratified with seeing them overthrown. On the sentiment here expressed, see Psa 54:7, note; Psa 59:10, note.
On mine enemies - The word used here - שׁור shûr - occurs nowhere else. It means, properly, a lier-in-wait; one who "watches;" one who is in ambush; and refers to persons who "watched" his conduct; who "watched" for his ruin.
And mine ears ... - literally, "Of those rising up against me, evil-doers, my ear shall hear." He would hear of their ruin; he would hear what he desired to hear.
The righteous shall flourish like the palm-tree - That is, the beauty, the erectness, the stateliness, the growth of the palm-tree - all this is an emblem of the condition, the prosperity, the happiness of a righteous man. The wicked shall be cut down; but the righteous shall flourish. This image - the comparison of a righteous man to a flourishing, majestic, green, and beautiful tree - is not uncommon in the Scriptures. See the notes at Psa 1:3; compare Jer 17:8. On the "palm-tree," see the notes at Mat 21:8. "The stem," says Dr. Thomson ("land and the Book," vol. i. p. 65)" tall, slender, and erect as Rectitude herself, suggests to the Arab poets many a symbol for their lady-love; and Solomon, long before them, has sung, 'How fair and how pleasant art thou, O love! for delights; this thy stature is like the palm-tree." Sol 7:6-7. The following remarks of Dr. Thomson ("land and the Book," vol. i. pp. 65, 66) will illustrate the passage before us; - "The palm grows slowly, but steadily, from century to century, uninfluenced by those alternations of the seasons which affect other trees. It does not rejoice overmuch in winter's copious rain, nor does it droop under the drought and the burning sun of summer. Neither heavy weights which people place upon its head, nor the importunate urgency of the wind, can sway it aside from perfect uprightness. There it stands, looking calmly down upon the world below, and patiently yielding its large clusters of golden fruit from generation to generation. They 'bring forth fruit in old age.' The allusion to being planted in the house of the Lord is probably drawn from the custom of planting beautiful and long-lived trees in the courts of temples and palaces, and in all 'high places' used for worship.
This is still common; nearly every palace, and mosque, and convent in the country has such trees in the courts, and, being well protected there, they flourish exceedingly. Solomon covered all the walls of the 'holy of holies' round about with palm-trees. They were thus planted, as it were, within the very house of the Lord; and their presence there was not only ornamental, but appropriate and highly suggestive; the very best emblem, not only of patience in well-doing, but of the rewards of the righteous - a fat and flourishing old age - a peaceful end - a glorious immortality." The following cut will furnish an apt representation of the appearance of the tree, and a proper illustration of the beauty of the passage before us.
He shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon - On the cedars of Lebanon, see the notes at Isa 2:13. The following remarks by Dr. Thomson ("land and the Book," vol. i. pp. 292, 295), with the accompanying cut, will show the propriety of the image here. "The platform where the cedars stand is more than six thousand feet above the Mediterranean, and around it are gathered the very tallest and grayest heads of Lebanon. The forest is not large - not more than five hundred trees, great and small, grouped irregularly on the sides of shallow ravines, which mark the birthplace of the Khadisha, or Holy River.
"But, though the space covered by them does not exceed half a dozen acres, yet, when fairly within the grove, and beneath the giant arms of those old patriarchs of a hundred generations, there comes a solemn hush upon the soul as if by enchantment. Precisely the same sort of magic spell settles on the spirits, no matter how often you repeat your visits. But it is most impressive in the night. Let us by all means arrange to sleep there. The universal silence is almost painful. The gray old towers of Lebanon, still as a stone, stand all around, holding up the stars of heaven to look at you, and the trees gather like phantoms about you, and wink knowingly, or seem to, and whisper among themselves you know not what. You become suspicious, nervous, until, broad awake, you find that it is nothing but the flickering of your drowsy fire, and the feeble flutter of bats among the boughs of the trees. A night among the cedars is never forgotten; the impressions, electrotyped, are hid away in the inner chamber of the soul, among her choicest treasures, to be visited a thousand times with never-failing delight.
"There is a singular discrepancy in the statements of travelers with regard to the number of trees. Some mention seven, others thirteen - intending, doubtless, only those whose age and size rendered them Biblical, or at least historical. It is not easy, however, to draw any such line of demarcation. There is a complete gradation from small and comparatively young to the very oldest patriarchs of the forest. I counted four hundred and forty-three, great and small, and this cannot be far from the true number. This, however, is not uniform. Some are struck down by lightning, broken by enormous loads of snow, or torn to fragments by tempests. Even the sacrilegious axe is sometimes lifted against them. But, on the other hand, young trees are constantly springing up from the roots of old ones, and from seeds of ripe cones. I have seen these infant cedars in thousands just springing from the soil; but as the grove is wholly unprotected, and greatly frequented both by human beings and animals, they are quickly destroyed. The fact, however, proves that the number might be increased "ad libitum." Beyond a doubt, the whole of these upper terraces of Lebanon might again be covered with groves of this noble tree, and furnish timber enough not only for Solomon's Temple and the house of the forest of Lebanon, but for all the houses along this coast. But, unless a wiser and more provident government controls the country, such a result can never be realized, and, indeed, the whole forest will slowly die out under the dominion of the Arab and Turk. Even in that case the tree will not be lost. It has been propagated by the nut or seed in many parks in Europe, and there are more of them within fifty miles of London than on all Lebanon.
"We have seen larger trees every way, and much taller, on the banks of the Ohio, and the loftiest cedar might take shelter under the lowest branches of California's vegetable glories. Still, they are respectable trees. The girth of the largest is more than forty-one feet; the height of the highest may be one hundred. These largest, however, part into two or three only a few feet from the ground. Their age is very uncertain, nor are they more ready to reveal it than others who have an uneasy consciousness of length of days. Very different estimates have been made. Some of our missionary band, who have experience in such matters, and confidence in the results, have counted the "growths" (as we Western people call the annual concentric circles) for a few inches into the trunk of the oldest cedar, and from such data carry back its birth three thousand five hundred years. It may be so. They are carved full of names and dates, going back several generations, and the growth "since the earliest date" has been almost nothing. At this rate of increase they must have been growing ever since the Flood. But young trees enlarge far faster, so that my confidence in estimates made from such specimens is but small." The idea in the passage before us is, that the righteous will flourish like the most luxuriant and majestic trees of the forest; they may be compared with the most grand and beautiful objects in nature.
Those that be planted in the house of the Lord - As if plants were reared up in the house of God. The same image, under the idea of the olive tree, occurs in Psa 52:8. See the notes at that verse. The passage here may refer particularly to those who have been trained up in connection with the church; young plants set out in the sanctuary, and cultivated until they have reached their growth.
Shall flourish in the courts of our God - That is, Having been planted there, they will grow there; they will send out their boughs there; they will produce fruit there. The "courts" of the house of God were properly the areas or open spaces around the tabernacle or the temple (see the notes at Mat 21:12); but the word came also to denote the tabernacle or the temple itself, or to designate a place where God was worshipped. It has this meaning here. The passage affords an encouragement to parents to train up their children in attendance on the ordinances of public worship; and it shows the advantage of having been born in the church, and of having been trained up in it - an advantage which no one can fully appreciate. The passage may also be regarded as furnishing a proof of what will be the result of being thus "planted" and nurtured in connection with the church, inasmuch as trees carefully planted and cultivated are expected to produce more and better fruit than those which grow wild.
They shall still bring forth fruit in old age - As a tree that is carefully planted and cultivated may be expected to live long, and to bear fruit even when it is old. It is true that such a tree may be cut down; or that it may be blown down by winds and tempests; or that it may be unproductive, but as a general rule, and as laying the foundation of a reasonable hope, such a tree may be expected to live long, and to produce fruit even when it is old. So of one devoted early to God, and trained up under the influences of religion. The care, the culture, the habits of temperance, of industry, of moderation, and of sobriety so formed, are favorable to length of days, and lay the foundation for usefulness when old age comes. An aged man should be useful. He should feel that whatever wisdom he may possess as the result of long study and experience, belongs to God and to truth; that one great reason for sparing him is that he may be useful; that the world needs the benefit of his counsel and his prayers; that his life is lengthened out not for his own ease or enjoyment, but that virtue and piety may be extended in the world by all the influence which he can bring to bear upon it in advanced years. It may be added that, as a matter of fact, those who are thus trained and are thus preserved, are useful in old age. No one thus spared need be useless; perhaps almost none are. There is something appropriate for old men to do, as there is for the young and the middle-aged; and it should be the object of an aged Christian to find out what that is, and to do it. The word rendered "old age means literally grey or hoary hair."
They shall be fat - The meaning is, that they shall be vigorous, or have the appearance of vigor and health.
And flourishing - Margin, as in Hebrew, "green." This image is taken from a tree, as if it were still green in old age, or gave no indications of decay.
To shew that the Lord is upright - That is, This will be a proof that God is faithful to his promises; that he is the true friend of his people. The fact that they live long - that they are happy and useful even in old age, will be a demonstration that God is the friend of virtue, and that he deals with people according to their character.
He is my rock - He is my defense; that which constitutes my security. See the notes at Psa 18:2. This is language of strong confidence in view of all that is said in the psalm.
And there is no unrighteousness in him - This is said in the most absolute form - implying the most entire confidence. God is altogether to be trusted. There is no evil or wrong in his character or in his dealings. In all respects he is worthy of confidence: "worthy" to be loved, trusted, adored, obeyed, by the inhabitants of all worlds. What a sublime thought is this! What a consolatory truth! What would the universe be if God, a Being of infinite POWER, were not a Being of perfect RIGHTEOUSNESS, and could not be trusted by the creatures which he has made!