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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Psalms Chapter 61


psa 61:0

Prayer and Thanksgiving of an Expelled King on His Way Back to the Throne

The Davidic Michtammı̂m are now ended, and there follows a short Davidic song על־נגינת. Does this expression mean "with the accompaniment of stringed instruments?" Not strictly, for this is expressed by the inscription בּנגינות (Psa 4:1, cf. Isa 30:29, Isa 30:32). But the formula may signify "upon the music of stringed instruments," i.e., upon stringed instruments. And this is more probable than that נגינת is the beginning of a standard song. The termination ath is not necessarily the construct state. It was the original feminine termination; and the prevailing one in Phoenician.

Some expositors, like Kster, Ewald, Hitzig, and Olshausen, feel themselves here also bound, by reason of the לדוד of the inscription, to seek a place for this Psalm as far down as the Babylonian exile and the times of the Ptolemies and the Seleucidae. Hupfeld deals somewhat more kindly with the לדוד in this instance, and Bttcher (De Inferis, p. 204) refutes the hypotheses set up in its stead in order finally to decide in favour of the idea that the king of whom the Psalm speaks is Cyrus - which is only another worthless bubble. We abide by the proudly ignored לדוד, and have as our reward a much more simple interpretation of the Psalm, without being obliged with Ewald to touch it up by means of a verse of one's own invention interwoven between Psa 61:5 and Psa 61:6. It is a Psalm of the time of Absalom, composed in Mahanaim or elsewhere in Gilead, when the army of the king had smitten the rebels in the wood of Ephraim. It consists of two parts of eight lines.

Psalms 61:1

psa 61:1

Hurled out of the land of the Lord in the more limited sense

(Note: Just as in Num 32:29. the country east of Jordan is excluded from the name "the land of Canaan" in the stricter sense, so by the Jewish mind it was regarded from the earliest time to a certain extent as a foreign country (חוצה לארץ), although inhabited by the two tribes and a half; so that not only is it said of Moses that he died in a foreign land, but even of Saul that he is buried in a foreign land (Numeri Rabba, ch. viii. and elsewhere).)

into the country on the other side of the Jordan, David felt only as though he were banished to the extreme corner of the earth (not: of the land, cf. Psa 46:10; Deu 28:49, and frequently), far from the presence of God (Hengstenberg). It is the feeling of homelessness and of separation from the abode of God by reason of which the distance, in itself so insignificant (just as was the case with the exiles later on), became to him immeasurably great. For he still continually needed God's helpful intervention; the enveloping, the veiling, the faintness of his heart still continues (עטף, Arab. ‛tf, according to its radical signification: to bend and lay anything round so that it lies or draws over something else and covers it, here of a self-enveloping); a rock of difficulties still ever lies before him which is too high for his natural strength, for his human ability, therefore insurmountable. But he is of good courage: God will lead him up with a sure step, so that, removed from all danger, he will have rocky ground under his feet. He is of good courage, for God has already proved Himself to be a place of refuge to him, to be a strong tower, defying all attack, which enclosed him, the persecuted one, so that the enemy can gain no advantage over him (cf. Pro 18:10). He is already on the way towards his own country, and in fact his most dearly loved and proper home: he will or he has to (in accordance with the will of God) dwell (cf. the cohortative in Isa 38:10; Jer 4:21) in God's tabernacle (vid., on Psa 15:1) throughout aeons (an utterance which reminds one of the synchronous Psa 23:6). With גּוּר is combined the idea of the divine protection (cf. Arabic ǵâr ollah, the charge or proteg of God, and Beduinic ǵaur, the protecting hearth; ǵawir, according to its form = גּר, one who flees for refuge to the hearth). A bold figure of this protection follows: he has to, or will trust, i.e., find refuge, beneath the protection of God's wings. During the time the tabernacle was still being moved from place to place we hear no such mention of dwelling in God's tabernacle or house. It was David who coined this expression for loving fellowship with the God of revelation, simultaneously with his preparation of a settled dwelling-place for the sacred Ark. In the Psalms that belong to the time of his persecution by Saul such an expression is not yet to be found; for in Psa 52:7, when it is desired that Doeg may have the opposite of an eternal dwelling-place, it is not the sacred tent that is meant. We see also from its second part that this Psa 61:1-8 does not belong to the time of Saul; for David does not speak here as one who has drawn very near to his kingly office (cf. Psa 40:8), but as one who is entering upon a new stage in it.

Psalms 61:5

psa 61:5

The second part begins with a confirmation of the gracious purpose of God expressed in Psa 61:5. David believes that he shall experience what he gives expression to in Psa 61:5; for God has already practically shown him that neither his life nor his kingship shall come to an end yet; He has answered the prayers of His chosen one, that, blended with vows, resulted from the lowly, God-resigned spirit which finds expression in Sa2 15:25., and He has given or delivered up to him the land which is his by inheritance, when threatened by the rebels as robbers, - the land to which those who fear the covenant God have a just claim. It is clear enough that the receivers are "those who fear the name of Jahve;" the genitive relation describes the ירשּׁה as belonging to them in opposition to those who had usurped it. Or does ירשּׁה here perhaps mean the same as ארשׁת in Psa 21:3? Certainly not. נתן ירשּׁה ל is a customary phrase, the meaning of which, "to give anything to any one as his inheritance or as his own property," is to be retained (e.g., Deu 2:19). God has acknowledged David's cause; the land of Israel is again wrested from those to whom it does not belong; and now begins a new era in the reign of its rightful king. In view of this the king prays, in Psa 61:7, Psa 61:8, that God would add another goodly portion to the duration of his life. The words sound like intercession, but the praying one is the same person as in Psa 61:2-5. The expression מלכּא משׁיחא (the King Messiah) of the Targum shows to whom the church referred the word "king" after the extinction of the Davidic dynasty. The exalted tone of the wish expressed in Psa 61:7 (cf. Joe 2:2) favours this without absolutely requiring it (cf. עולמים, Psa 61:5, Psa 21:5, and the royal salutation, Kg1 1:31; Dan 2:4, and frequently). There ought (as also e.g., in Psa 9:8) not to be any question whether ישׁב in Psa 61:8 signifies "to sit enthroned," or "to sit" = "to abide;" when the person spoken of is a king it means "to remain enthroned," for with him a being settled down and continuous enthronement are coincident. מן in Psa 61:8 is imperat. apoc. for מגּה (after the form הס, נס, צו). The poet prays God to appoint mercy and truth as guardian angels to the king (Psa 40:12, Pro 20:28, where out of pause it is צּרוּ; cf. on the other hand Psa 78:7; Pro 2:11; Pro 5:2). Since the poet himself is the king for whom he prays, the transition to the first person in v. 9 is perfectly natural. כּן signifies, as it always does, so or thus = in accordance therewith, corresponding to the fulfilment of these my petitions, thankfully responding to it. לשׁלּמי is the infinitive of the aim or purpose. Singing praise and accompanying it with music, he will make his whole life one continuous paying of vows.

Next: Psalms Chapter 62