Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke, , at sacred-texts.com
The psalmist exhorts all to praise God for the wonders he has wrought, Psa 66:1-4; calls on Israel to consider his mighty acts in behalf of their fathers, Psa 66:5-7; his goodness in their own behalf Psa 66:8-12; he resolves to pay his vows to God, and offer his promised sacrifices, Psa 66:13-15; calls on all to hear what God had done for his soul, Psa 66:15-20.
There is nothing particular in the title of the Psalm. It is not attributed to David either by the Hebrew, Chaldee, Syriac, Septuagint, Vulgate, or Ethiopic. The Arabic alone prefixes the name of David. The Vulgate, Septuagint, Ethiopic, and Arabic, call it a psalm of the resurrection: but for this there is no authority. By many of the ancients it is supposed to be a celebration of the restoration from the Babylonish captivity. Others think it commemorates the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, their introduction into the Promised Land, and the establishment of the worship of God in Jerusalem.
Make a joyfull noise - Sing aloud to God, all ye lands - all ye people who, from different parts of the Babylonish empire, are now on return to your own land.
The honor of his name - Let his glorious and merciful acts be the subject of your songs.
How terrible art thou - Consider the plagues with which he afflicted Egypt before he brought your fathers from their captivity, which obliged all his enemies to submit.
Thine enemies submit themselves - Literally, lie unto thee. This was remarkably the case with Pharaoh and the Egyptians. They promised again and again to let the people go, when the hand of the Lord was upon them: and they as frequently falsified their word.
All the earth - The whole land shall worship thee. There shall no more an idol be found among the tribes of Israel. This was iterally true. After the Babylonish captivity the Israelites never relapsed into idolatry.
Selah - Remark it: this is a well attested truth.
Come and see the works of God - Let every man lay God's wonderful dealings with us to heart; and compare our deliverance from Babylon to that of our fathers from Egypt.
He turned the sea into dry land - This was a plain miracle: no human art or contrivance could do this. Even in the bed of the waters They did rejoice in him. We have not less cause to praise and be thankful.
Be ruleth by his power - His omnipotence is employed to support his followers, and cast down his enemies.
His eyes behold the nations - He sees what they purpose, what they intend to do; and what they will do, if he restrain them not.
Let not the rebellious exalt themselves - They shall not succeed in their designs: they have their own aggrandizement in view, but thou wilt disappoint and cast them down.
Selah - Mark this. It is true.
O bless our God - Who have so much cause as you to sing praises to the Lord? Hear what he has done for you:
Which holdeth our soul in life - Literally, "he who placeth our soul בחיים bachaiyim, in lives." We are preserved alive, have health of body, and feel the life of God in our hearts.
And suffereth not her feet to be moved - Keeps us steadfast in his testimonies. We have our life, our liberty, and our religion. O, what hath the Lord wrought for us! "Make, therefore, the voice of his praise to be heard." Let God and man know you are thankful.
For thou, O God, hast proved us - This is a metaphor taken from melting and refining metals; afflictions and trials of various kinds are represented as a furnace where ore is melted, and a crucible where it is refined. And this metaphor is used especially to represent cases where there is doubt concerning the purity of the metal, the quantity of alloy, or even the nature or kind of metal subjected to the trial. So God is said to try the Israelites that he might know what was in them; and whether they would keep his testimonies: and then, according to the issue, his conduct towards them would appear to be founded on reason and justice.
Thou broughtest us into the net - This refers well to the case of the Israelites, when, in their departure from Egypt, pursued by the Egyptians, having the Red Sea before them, and no method of escape, Pharaoh said, "The wilderness hath shut them in, - they are entangled;" comparing their state to that of a wild beast in a net.
Affliction upon our loins - Perhaps this alludes to that sharp pain in the back and loins which is generally felt on the apprehension of sudden and destructive danger.
Thou hast caused men to ride over our heads - Thou hast permitted us to fall under the dominion of our enemies; who have treated us as broken infantry are when the cavalry dashes among their disordered ranks, treading all under the horses' feet.
We went through fire and through water - Through afflictions of the most torturing and overwhelming nature. To represent such, the metaphors of fire and water are often used in Scripture. The old Psalter considers these trials as a proof of the uprightness of those who were tried - We passid thrugh fire and watir: that is, thurgh wa and wele, as a man that leves noght his waye for hete na for kald, for dry na for wette; and thou out lede us fra tribulacyon intill koling (cooling) that is, in till endles riste, that we hope to hafe after this travell.
Wealthy place - Well watered place, to wit, the land of Judea.
I will go into thy house with burnt-offerings - Now that thou hast restored us to our own land, and established us in it, we will establish thy worship, and offer all the various kinds of sacrifices required by thy law.
I will pay thee my vows - We often vowed, if thou wouldst deliver us from our bondage, to worship and serve thee alone: now thou hast heard our prayers, and hast delivered us; therefore will we fulfill our engagements to thee. The old Psalter gives this a pious turn: - I sall yelde till the my woues, that is, the vowes of louying (praising) the; whilk vowes my lipes divisid sayand, that I am noght, and thou arte all: and I hafe nede of the, noght thou of me. This is a right distinction - It is certainly a good distinction, and it is strictly true. The allsufficient God needs not his creatures.
When I was in trouble - This is generally the time when good resolutions are formed, and vows made; but how often are these forgotten when affliction and calamity are removed!
I will offer, etc. - Thou shalt have the best of the herd and of the fold; the lame and the blind shall never be given to thee for sacrifice.
The incense of rams - The fine effluvia arising from the burning of the pure fat.
Come and hear, all ye that fear God - While in captivity, the psalmist had sought the Lord with frequent prayer for his own personal salvation, and for the deliverance of the people; and God blessed him, heard his prayer, and turned the captivity. Now that he is returned in safety, he is determined to perform his vows to the Lord; and calls on all them that fear their Maker, who have any religious reverence for him, to attend to his account of the Lord's gracious dealings with him. He proposes to tell them his spiritual experience, what he needed, what he earnestly prayed for, and what God has done for him. Thus he intended to teach them by example, more powerful always than precept, however weighty in itself, and impressively delivered.
I cried unto him with my mouth - My prayer was fervent; he heard and answered; and my tongue celebrated his mercies; and he as graciously received my thanksgiving, as he compassionately heard my prayer.
If I regard iniquity in my heart - "If I have seen (ראיתי raithi) iniquity in my heart," if I have known it was there, and encouraged it; if I pretended to be what I was not; if I loved iniquity, while I professed to pray and be sorry for my sin; the Lord, אדני Adonai, my Prop, Stay, and Supporter, would not have heard, and I should have been left without help or support.
Verily God hath heard me - A sure proof that my prayer was upright, and my heart honest, before him.
Blessed be God - I therefore praise God, who has not turned aside my prayer, and who has not withheld his mercy from me. Thus he told them what God had done for his soul.