Notes on the Bible, by Albert Barnes, , at sacred-texts.com
Of the author of this psalm nothing is certainly known. It is, however, ascribed to David in the Latin Vulgate and in the Septuagint; and in Heb 4:7, it is referred to as a psalm of David: "Again, he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, 'Today, if ye will hear his voice,'" etc. This language may refer in general to the Book of Psalms, called from their chief author, the Psalms of David; or it may mean that David was the author of this particular psalm. Either supposition would meet all that is demanded by the quotation in the Epistle to the Hebrews. There is, however, no improbability in the supposition that the psalm was written by David, as he doubtless composed many songs to which his name was not attached.
Nothing is known of the "occasion" on which the psalm was composed. It is a general song of praise, and contains only such language as might be proper in any period of the Jewish history after the people were established in the promised land. It is, indeed, a "Hebrew" song; it has reference to the Hebrew people; and it contains such arguments and appeals as would be particularly adapted to influence them.
The psalm consists of three parts:
I. An exhortation to praise and worship God, Psa 95:1-2.
II. Reasons for offering such praise, Psa 95:3-7 :
(a) He is a great God, Psa 95:3;
(b) He has made all things, and all things are under his control, Psa 95:4-5;
(c) He is our Maker, Psa 95:6;
(d) He is our God, and we are his people, Psa 95:7.
III. An exhortation not to harden the heart; not to be perverse and rebellious, Psa 95:7-11. This is enforced by the example of the Israelites in the wilderness, and by the results which followed from their tempting God, and provoking his wrath. The appeal is founded on the fact that, in consequence of their rebellion, they were shut out of the promised land. On the same principle, if we are rebellious, we shall be excluded from heaven.
O come, let us sing unto the Lord - The word here rendered come, means properly "go;" but it is used here, as it often is, as a formula of invitation, in calling on others to share in what is done by the speaker. It is here to be understood as used by one portion of an assembly convened for worship addressing the other portion, and calling on them to unite in the praise of God.
Let us make a joyful noise - The word used here means commonly to make a loud noise, to shout, Job 30:5. It is especially used
(a) of warlike shouts, Jos 6:16; Sa1 17:20;
(b) of the shout of triumph, Jdg 15:14;
(c) of the sound or clangor of a trumpet, Num 10:9; Joe 2:1.
It may thus be used to denote any shout of joy or praise. In public worship it would denote praise of the most animated kind.
To the Rock of our salvation - The strong ground of our confidence; the basis of our hope; our security. See the notes at Psa 18:2.
Let us come before his presence - Margin, as in Hebrew, "prevent his face." The word in Hebrew means literally to come before; to anticipate. It is the word which is commonly rendered "prevent." See Job 3:12, note; Psa 17:13, note; Psa 59:10, note; Th1 4:15, note. Here it means to come before, in the sense of "in front of." Let us stand before his face; that is, in his very presence.
With thanksgiving - Expressing our thanks.
And make a joyful noise unto him - The same word which occurs in Psa 95:1.
With psalms - Songs of praise.
For the Lord is a great God - For Yahweh is a great God. The object is to exalt Jehovah, the true God, as distinguished from all who were worshipped as gods. The first idea is that he is "great;" that he is exalted over all the universe; that he rules over all, and that he is to be worshipped as such.
And a great King above all gods - This does not mean that he is a great ruler of all other gods, as if they had a real existence, but that he is king or ruler far above all that were worshipped as gods, or to whom homage was paid. Whoever, or whatever was worshipped as God, Yahweh was supreme over all things. He occupied the throne; and all others must be beneath him, and under his dominion. If the sun, the moon, or the stars were worshipped - if the mountains or the rivers - if angels good or bad - yet Yahweh was above all these. If imaginary beings were worshipped, yet Yahweh in his perfections was exalted far above all that was ascribed to them, for He was the true God, and the Ruler of the universe, while they were beings of the imagination only.
In his hand - In his power, or under his control as his own. That is, he so possesses all things that they can be claimed by no other. His right over them is absolute and entire.
Are the deep places of the earth - The word used here - מחקר mechqâr - means the interior, the inmost depth; that which is "searched out," from - חקר châqar - to search, search out, explore. The primary idea is that of searching by boring or digging; and the allusion here is to the parts of the earth which could be explored only by digging - as in mining, or sinking shafts in the earth. The meaning is, that all those places which lie beyond the ordinary power of observation in man are in the hand of God. He knows them as clearly as those which are most plain to human view; he possesses or owns them as his own as really as he does those which are on the surface of the ground.
The strength of the hills is his also - Margin, "The heights of the hills are his." The word rendered "strength" - תועפות tô‛âphôth - means properly swiftness or speed in running; then, weariness, wearisome labor; and hence, wealth obtained by labor; "treasures." Here the expression means "treasures of the mountains;" that is, treasures obtained out of the mountains, the precious metals, etc. Compare the notes at Job 22:25, where the same word occurs. All this belongs to God. As he is the Maker of these hills, and of all that they contain, the absolute proprietorship is in him.
The sea is his - Margin, as in Hebrew, "Whose the sea is." That is, The sea belongs to him, with all which it contains.
And he made it - It is his, "because" he made it. The creation of anything gives the highest possible right over it.
And his hands formed the dry land - He has a claim, therefore, that it should be recognized as his, and that all who dwell upon it, and derive their support from it, should acknowledge him as its great Owner and Lord.
O come, let us worship and bow down - Let us worship him by bowing down; by prostrating ourselves before him. The word here rendered "come" is not the same which is used in Psa 95:1. Its literal meaning is "come," and it is an earnest exhortation to come and worship. It is not a particle merely calling attention to a subject, but it is an exhortation to approach - to enter - to engage in a thing. The word rendered "worship," means properly to bow down; to incline oneself; and then, to bow or prostrate oneself before anyone in order to do him homage, or reverence. Then it means to bow down before God in the attitude of worship. It would most naturally refer to an entire "prostration" on the ground, which was a common mode of worship; but it would also express adoration in any form. The word rendered "bow down," means properly to bend, to bow, spoken usually of the knees. Isa 45:23 : "every knee shall bow." Compare Jdg 7:5-6; Kg1 8:54; Kg2 1:13. The word might be applied, like the former word, to those who bow down with the whole person, or prostrate themselves on the ground. Ch2 7:3.
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker - The usual attitude of prayer in the Scriptures. See the notes at Dan 6:10; compare Ch2 6:13; Luk 22:41; Act 7:60; Act 9:40; Act 20:36; Act 21:5. All the expressions here employed denote a posture of profound reverence in worship, and the passage is a standing rebuke of all irreverent postures in prayer; of such habits as often prevail in public worship where no change of posture is made in prayer, and where a congregation irreverently sit in the act of professedly worshipping God. People show to their fellowmen the respect indicated by rising up before them: much more should they show respect to God - respect in a posture which will indicate profound reverence, and a deep sense of his presence and majesty. Reverently kneeling or standing "will" indicate this; sitting does not indicate it.
For he is our God - Not only the God whom we worship as the true God, but One who has revealed himself to us as our God. We worship him as God - as entitled to praise and adoration because he is the true God; we worship him also as sustaining the relation of God to us, or because we recognize him as our God, and because he has manifested himself as ours.
And we are the people of his pasture - whom he has recognized as his flock; to whom he sustains the relation of shepherd; who feeds and protects us as the shepherd does his flock. See the notes at Psa 79:13; compare Psa 23:1-3.
And the sheep of his hand - The flock that is guided and fed by his hand.
To day if ye will hear his voice - His voice calling you; commanding you; inviting you; encouraging you. See this passage explained in the notes at Heb 3:7-11. The word "today" here means "the present time;" now. The idea is, that the purpose to obey should not be deferred until tomorrow; should not be put off to the future. The commands of God should be obeyed at once; the purpose should be executed immediately. All God's commands relate to the present. He gives us none for the future; and a true purpose to obey God exists only where there is a willingness to obey "now," "today;" and can exist only then. A purpose to repent at some future time, to give up the world at some future time, to embrace the Gospel at some future time, is "no obedience," for there is no such command addressed to us. A resolution to put off repentance and faith, to defer attention to religion until some future time, is real disobedience - and often the worst form of disobedience - for it is directly in the face of the command of God. "If ye will hear." That is, If there is a disposition or willingness to obey his voice at all; or, to listen to his commands. See the notes at Heb 3:7.
Harden not your heart - See this verse explained in the notes at Heb 3:8.
As in the provocation ... - Margin, "contention." The original is "Meribah." See Exo 17:7, where the original words Meribah, rendered here "provocation," and "Massah," rendered here "temptation," are retained in the translation.
When your fathers - Your ancestors. See this verse explained in the notes on Heb 3:9.
Tempted me - Tried me; tried my patience, to see how much I would bear. This does not mean, as it commonly does now with us, to place inducements before one to lead him into sin, but to try one - to put his patience to the test. This they did, in the case referred to, by their obduracy and evil conduct.
Proved me - See the notes at Heb 3:9. "And saw my work." Though they constantly saw my work; saw my gracious interpositions; saw what I was doing for their own good.
Forty years long - All the time that they were in the wilderness. During this long period their conduct was such as to try my patience and forbearance.
Was I grieved - The word used here - קוט qûṭ - means properly to loathe, to nauseate, to be disgusted with. It is translated "loathe" in Eze 6:9; Eze 20:43; Eze 36:31; and grieved in Psa 119:158; Psa 139:21. It is here expressive of the strong abhorrence which God had of their conduct. Compare Rev 3:16.
With this generation - With the entire generation that came out of Egypt. They were all cut off in the wilderness, except Caleb and Joshua.
And said, It is a people - It is a characteristic of the entire people, that they are disposed to wander from God.
That do err in their heart - In the Epistle to the Hebrews Heb 3:10 where this is quoted, it is, "They do always err in their heart." The sense is substantially the same. See the notes at that place.
And they have not known my ways - See the notes at Heb 3:10.
Unto whom I sware in my wrath - See the notes at Heb 3:11.
That they should not enter into my rest - Margin, as in Hebrew, "If they enter into my rest." The "rest" here referred to was the land of Canaan. They were not permitted to enter there as a place of "rest" after their long and weary wanderings, but died in the wilderness. The meaning is not that none of them were saved (for we must hope that very many of them were brought to the heavenly Canaan), but that they did not come to the promised land. Unbelief shut them out; and this fact is properly made use of here, and in Heb. 3, as furnishing a solemn warning to all not to be unbelieving and rebellious, since the consequence of unbelief and rebellion must be to exclude us from the kingdom of heaven, the true place of "rest."