Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
The author of this psalm is unknown, and there is nothing by which we can determine this, or its date, or the occasion on which it was written. It seems, from Psa 93:5, to have been composed with some reference to the sanctuary, and to the service there: "Holiness becometh thine "house," O Lord," and it may have been designed, with the last psalm, to have been used in the place of public worship on the sabbath-day. It would appear, also, from the structure of the psalm, that it was composed in view of some danger which may have threatened the nation from some hostile power Psa 93:1-4, and that the design was to impart confidence in God, or to keep up the assurance in the mind of the people that God presided over all, and that his kingdom was safe. With this view, it is adapted to inspire confidence in God in all ages, and in all times of danger. In the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, the title is, "The praise of an ode by David, for the day preceding the sabbath, when the earth was founded." The origin of this title is unknown, and it has no authority. There is no evidence that it was composed by David, and the presumption from Psa 93:5 is that it was composed after the temple was built, and consequently after the death of David.
The Lord reigneth - The same commencement of a psalm occurs in Psa 97:1-12; Psa 99:1-9. The same idea is often found in the Scriptures. Ch1 16:31; Psa 47:8; Isa 52:7; Rev 19:6. The thought seems abrupt here. It would appear as if the psalmist had been meditating on the dark things which occur in the world; the mysteries which abound; the things which seem irreconcilable with the idea that there is a just government over the world, and that suddenly the idea occurs, as a flash of lightning in a storm, that Yahweh reigns over all, and that all must be right. Amidst all these things God sits upon the throne; he orders all events; he sways his scepter over all; he orders all things according to his own will; he secures the accomplishment of his own purposes.
He is clothed with majesty - That is, he puts on, or wears this; he appears in this as a garb, or robe. The word rendered "majesty" means properly "loftiness," and is applied to the swelling of the sea Psa 89:9, or to a column of smoke, Isa 9:18. The idea here is, that God is exalted; and that he appears in such a manner as to indicate his proper dignity. See the notes at Isa 6:1.
The Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself - There is an allusion here to the mode of dress among the Orientals - the custom of girding the loins when one labored, or walked, or ran. See the notes at Mat 5:38-41.
The world also is stablished - Is firm; is on a solid foundation. It cannot be shaken or destroyed by natural convulsions, or by the power of man.
That it cannot be moved - Moved out of its place; overthrown; destroyed. This seems to have been spoken in view of some impending calamity, as if everything were to be swept away. The psalmist consoles himself with the thought that the world was firmly established; that no storm or tempest could be so violent as to remove it out of its place. The ground of consolation is the essential stability of what God has ordained.
Thy throne is established of old - Whatever might occur, the throne of God was firm. That could not be moved. It had been set up from all eternity. It had stood through all the convulsions and changes which had occurred in the universe; and it would stand firm forever. Whatever might change, that was immovable; and as long as that is unchanged we have a ground of security and hope. Should "that" be moved, all would be gone. The margin here is, as in Hebrew, "from then:" but it means "of old;" from the most ancient times; that is, from the period indicated by the next clause, "from everlasting."
Thou art from everlasting - From all eternity; thou hast always existed; thou art ever the same Psa 90:1.
The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice - The word here rendered "floods," means properly rivers, and then it may be applied to any waters. The word voice here refers to the noise of raging waters when they are agitated by the winds, or when they dash on the shore. See the notes at Psa 42:7.
The floods lift up their waves - As if they would sweep everything away. The allusion here is to some calamity or danger which might, in its strength and violence, be compared with the wild and raging waves of the ocean. Or if it refers literally to the ocean in a storm, then the psalm may have been the reflections of the author as he stood on the shore of the sea, and saw the waves beat and dash against the shore. To one thus looking upon the billows as they roll in toward the shore, it seems as if they were angry; as if they intended to sweep everything away; as if the rocks of the shore could not resist them. Yet they have their bounds. They spend their strength; they break, and retire as if to recover their force, and then they renew their attack with the same result. But their power is limited. The rocky shore is unmoved. The earth abides. God is over all. His throne is unshaken. No violence of the elements can affect that; and, under his dominion, all is secure.
The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters - That is, he is more powerful than those waters; he is able to control them. See Psa 65:7, note; Job 38:11, note. The original here is more rapid in the course of the thought; more emphatic and forcible: "More than the voice of waters - many - mighty - the breakers of the sea - in the high place is Jehovah." He is over all those billows and breakers; more mighty than they all. They can proceed no further than he permits; they will be stayed when and where he commands. We can conceive of few things which more illustrate the power and the majesty of God than the fact that he thus presides over, and controls, the waves of the ocean.
Yea, than the mighty waves of the sea - The original word here corresponds precisely with our word "breakers" - the mighty waves that "break" on the beach.
Thy testimonies are very sure - All that thou hast borne witness to; all that thou hast affirmed or declared to be true. This would embrace "all that" God has spoken, whether his law, his promises, his commands, his prophecies, or his statements of what has occurred and of what will occur. See the notes at Psa 19:7.
Holiness becometh thine house, O Lord - The psalm seems to have been intended to be used in the sanctuary, as a part of public worship, and the word "holiness" here would seem to mean a proper respect for God; confidence in him; a state of mind free from all doubt, and from all that is impure. Perhaps there may be here, also, the idea that in all the convulsions of the world; in all that threatens to overthrow truth and righteousness; in all the attacks which are made on the divine government; in all the efforts of the defenders of error, and in the midst of abounding iniquity, the church should maintain a firm adherence to the principles of "holiness," to that which is right and true. There should be one place - the church - where there would be no wavering in regard to truth and holiness; one place, where the truth would be defended whatever commotions might be abroad. The main idea, therefore, in the psalm is, that, in view of the fact that God reigns, and that nothing can frustrate his plans, or disturb his throne, we should approach him with reverence, with humble trust, with sincere and pure hearts.
In a larger sense, also, in the largest sense conceivable - it is true that "holiness," purity, freedom from evil thoughts, from a wanton eye and a wanton imagination, from unholy plans and purposes, should prevail in the house of God, and should be regarded as indispensable to proper worship. As heaven is pure, and as there shall enter there nothing "that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination or maketh a lie" Rev 21:27, so in the place where we seek to prepare for that holy world - the sanctuary of God - nothing should be allowed to enter that is impure and polluting; nothing that tends to corrupt or defile the soul. It may be added, that attendance in a place of public worship is calculated to make the heart pure, and to banish unholy thoughts and purposes from the soul. A man who feels that he is in the presence of a holy God, will not be likely to welcome into his soul polluted images and unholy desires.
Forever - Margin, as in Hebrew, "to length of days." The idea is, that it is always appropriate. See the notes at Psa 23:6.