Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
Prayer of a Grey-Headed Servant of God for Further Divine Aid
The Davidic Psa 70:1-5 is followed by an anonymous Psalm which begins like Ps 31 and closes like Ps 35, in which Psa 71:12, just like Psa 70:2, is an echo of Psa 40:14. The whole Psalm is an echo of the language of older Psalms, which is become the mental property, so to speak, of the author, and is revived in him by experiences of a similar character. Notwithstanding the entire absence of any thorough originality, it has an individual, and in fact a Jeremianic, impress.
The following reasons decide us in considering the Psalm as coming from the pen of Jeremiah: - (1) Its relationship to Psalms of the time of David and of the earlier times of the kings, but after David, leads us down to somewhere about the age of Jeremiah. (2) This anthological weaving together of men's own utterances taken from older original passages, and this skilful variation of them by merely slight touches of his own, is exactly Jeremiah's manner. (3) In solitary instances the style of Ps 69, slow, loose, only sparingly adorned with figures, and here and there prosaic, closely resembles Jeremiah; also to him corresponds the situation of the poet as one who is persecuted; to him, the retrospect of a life rich in experience and full of miraculous guidings; to him, whose term of active service extended over a period of more than thirty years under Zedekiah, the transition to hoary age in which the poet finds himself; to him, the reference implied in Psa 71:21 to some high office; and to him, the soft, plaintive strain that pervades the Psalm, from which it is at the same time clearly seen that the poet has attained a degree of age and experience, in which he is accustomed to self-control and is not discomposed by personal misfortune. To all these correspondences there is still to be added an historical testimony. The lxx inscribes the Psalm τῷ Δαυίδ υἱῷν Ἰωναδάβ καὶ τῶν πρώτων αἰχμαλωτισθέντων. According to this inscription, the τῷ Δαυίδ of which is erroneous, but the second part of which is so explicit that it must be based upon tradition, the Psalm was a favourite song of the Rechabites and of the first exiles. The Rechabites are that tribe clinging to a homely nomad life in accordance with the will of their father, which Jeremiah (Jer 35) holds up before the men of his time as an example of self-denying faithful adherence to the law of their father which puts them to shame. If the Psalm is by Jeremiah, it is just as intelligible that the Rechabites, to whom Jeremiah paid such a high tribute of respect, should appropriate it to their own use, as that the first exiles should do so. Hitzig infers from Psa 71:20, that at the time of its composition Jerusalem had already fallen; whereas in Ps 69 it is only the cities of Judah that as yet lie in ashes. But after the overthrow of Jerusalem we find no circumstances in the life of the prophet, who is no more heard of in Egypt, that will correspond to the complaints of the psalmist of violence and mockery. Moreover the foe in Psa 71:4 is not the Chaldaean, whose conduct towards Jeremiah did not merit these names. Nor can Psa 71:20 have been written at the time of the second siege and in the face of the catastrophe.
Stayed upon Jahve, his ground of trust, from early childhood up, the poet hopes and prays for deliverance out of the hand of the foe. The first of these two strophes (Psa 71:1-3) is taken from Psa 31:2-4, the second (Psa 71:4-6, with the exception of Psa 71:4 and Psa 71:6) from Psa 22:10-11; both, however, in comparison with Psa 70:1-5 exhibit the far more encroaching variations of a poet who reproduces the language of others with a freer hand. Olshausen wishes to read מעוז in Psa 71:3, Psa 90:1; Psa 91:9, instead of מעון, which he holds to be an error in writing. But this old Mosaic, Deuteronomial word (vid., on Psa 90:1) - cf. the post-biblical oath המעון (by the Temple!) - is unassailable. Jahve, who is called a rock of refuge in Psa 31:3, is here called a rock of habitation, i.e., a high rock that cannot be stormed or scaled, which affords a safe abode; and this figure is pursued still further with a bold remodelling of the text of Psa 31:3 : לבוא תּמיד, constantly to go into, i.e., which I can constantly, and therefore always, as often as it is needful, betake myself for refuge. The additional צוּית is certainly not equivalent to צוּה; it would more likely be equivalent to אשׁר צוית; but probably it is an independent clause: Thou hast (in fact) commanded, i.e., unalterably determined (Psa 44:5; Psa 68:29; Psa 133:3), to show me salvation, for my rock, etc. To the words לבוא תמיד צוית corresponds the expression לבית מצודות in Psa 31:3, which the lxx renders καὶ εἰς οἶκον καταφυγῆς, whereas instead of the former three words it has καὶ εἰς τόπον ὀχυρόν, and seems to have read לבית מבצרות, cf. Dan 11:15 (Hitzig). In Psa 71:5, Thou art my hope reminds one of the divine name מקוה ישׂראל in Jer 17:13; Jer 50:7 (cf. ἡ ἐλπίς ἡμῶν used of Christ in Ti1 1:1; Col 1:27). נסמכתּי is not less beautiful than השׁלכתּי in Psa 22:11. In its incipient slumbering state (cf. Psa 3:6), and in its self-conscious continuance. He was and is the upholding prop and the supporting foundation, so to speak, of my life. And גוזי instead of גּחי in Psa 22:10, is just such another felicitous modification. It is impracticable to define the meaning of this גוזי according to גּזה = גּזה, Arab. jz', retribuere (prop. to cut up, distribute), because גּמל is the representative of this Aramaeo-Arabic verb in the Hebrew. Still less, however, can it be derived from גּוּז, transire, the participle of which, if it would admit of a transitive meaning = מוציאי (Targum), ought to be גּזי. The verb גּזה, in accordance with its radical signification of abscindere (root גז, synon. קץ, קד, קט, and the like), denotes in this instance the separating of the child from the womb of the mother, the retrospect going back from youth to childhood, and even to his birth. The lxx σκεπαστής (μου) is an erroneous reading for ἐκσπαστής, as is clear from Psa 22:10, ὁ ἐκσπάσας με. הלּל בּ, Psa 44:9 (cf. שׂיח בּ, Psa 69:13), is at the bottom of the expression in Psa 71:6. The God to whom he owes his being, and its preservation thus far, is the constant, inexhaustible theme of his praise.
Brought safely through dangers of every kind, he is become כּמופת, as a wonder, a miracle (Arabic aft from afata, cognate afaka, הפך, to bend, distort: a turning round, that which is turned round or wrenched, i.e., that which is contrary to what is usual and looked for) to many, who gaze upon him as such with astonishment (Psa 40:4). It is his God, however, to whom, as hitherto so also in time to come, he will look to be thus wonderfully preserved: מחסי־עז, as in Sa2 22:33. עז is a genitive, and the suffix is thrown back (vid., supra, p 171) in order that what God is to, and does for, the poet may be brought forward more clearly and independently [lit. unalloyed]. Psa 71:8 tells us what it is that he firmly expects on the ground of what he possesses in God. And on this very ground arises the prayer of Psa 71:9 also: Cast me not away (viz., from Thy presence, Psa 51:13; Jer 7:15, and frequently) in the time (לעת, as in Gen 8:11) of old age - he is therefore already an old man (זקן), though only just at the beginning of the זקנה. He supplicates favour for the present and for the time still to come: now that my vital powers are failing, forsake me not! Thus he prays because he, who has been often wondrously delivered, is even now threatened by foes. Psa 71:11, introduced by means of Psa 71:10, tells us what their thoughts of him are, and what they purpose doing. לי, Psa 71:10, does not belong to אויבי, as it dies not in Psa 27:2 also, and elsewhere. The ל is that of relation or of reference, as in Psa 41:6. The unnecessary לאמר betrays a poet of the later period; cf. Psa 105:11; Psa 119:82 (where it was less superfluous), and on the contrary, Psa 83:5. The later poet also reveals himself in Psa 71:12, which is an echo of very similar prayers of David in Psa 22:12, Psa 22:20 (Psa 40:14, cf. Psa 70:2), Psa 35:22; Psa 38:22. The Davidic style is to be discerned here throughout in other points also. In place of הישׁה the Ker substitutes חוּשׁה, which is the form exclusively found elsewhere.
In view of Psa 40:15 (Psa 70:3), Psa 35:4, Psa 35:26; Psa 109:29, and other passages, the reading of יכּלמוּ, with the Syriac, instead of יכלוּ in Psa 71:13 commends itself; but there are also other instances in this Psalm of a modification of the original passages, and the course of the thoughts is now climactic: confusion, ruin (cf. Ps 6:11), and in fact ruin accompanied by reproach and shame. This is the fate that the poet desires for his deadly foes. In prospect of this he patiently composes himself, Psa 71:14 (cf. 31:25); and when righteous retribution appears, he will find new matter and ground and motive for the praise of God in addition to all such occasion as he has hitherto had. The late origin of the Psalm betrays itself again here; for instead of the praet. Hiph. הוסיף (which is found only in the Books of Kings and in Ecclesiastes), the older language made use of the praet. Ka. Without ceasing shall his mouth tell (ספּר, as in Jer 51:10) of God's righteousness, of God's salvation for he knows not numbers, i.e., the counting over or through of them (Psa 139:17.);
(Note: The lxx renders οὐκ ἔγνων πραγματείας; the Psalterium Romanum, non cognovi negotiationes; Psalt. Gallicum (Vulgate), non cognovi literaturam (instead of which the Psalt. Hebr., literaturas). According to Bttcher, the poet really means that he did not understand the art of writing.)
the divine proofs of righteousness or salvation עצמוּ מסּפּר (Psa 40:6), they are in themselves endless, and therefore the matter also which they furnish for praise is inexhaustible. He will tell those things which cannot be so reckoned up; he will come with the mighty deeds of the Lord Jahve, and with praise acknowledge His righteousness, Him alone. Since גּברות, like the New Testament δυνάμεις, usually signifies the proofs of the divine גּבוּרה (e.g., Psa 20:7), the Beth is the Beth of accompaniment, as e.g., in Psa 40:8; Psa 66:13. בּוא בּ, vernire cum, is like Arab. j'â' b (atâ), equivalent to afferre, he will bring the proofs of the divine power, this rich material, with him. It is evident from Psa 71:18. that בגברות does not refer to the poet (in the fulness of divine strength), but, together with צדקתך, forms a pair of words that have reference to God. לבדּך, according to the sense, joins closely upon the suffix of צדקתך (cf. Ps 83:19): Thy righteousness (which has been in mercy turned towards me), Thine alone (te solum = tui solius). From youth up God has instructed him, viz., in His ways (Psa 25:4), which are worthy of all praise, and hitherto (עד־הנּה, found only in this passage in the Psalter, and elsewhere almost entirely confined to prose) has he, "the taught of Jahve" (למּוּד ה), had to praise the wonders of His rule and of His leadings. May God, then, not forsake him even further on עד־זקנה ושׂיבה. The poet is already old (זקן), and is drawing ever nearer to שׂיבה, silvery, hoary old age (cf. Sa1 12:2). May God, then, in this stage of life also to which he has attained, preserve him in life and in His favour, until (עד = עד־אשׁר, as in Psa 132:5; Gen 38:11, and frequently) he shall have declared His arm, i.e., His mighty interposition in human history, to posterity (דּור), and to all who shall come (supply אשׁר), i.e., the whole of the future generation, His strength, i.e., the impossibility of thwarting His purposes. The primary passage for this is Psa 22:31.
The thought of this proclamation so thoroughly absorbs the poet that he even now enters upon the tone of it; and since to his faith the deliverance is already a thing of the past, the tender song with its uncomplaining prayer dies away into a loud song of praise, in which he pictures it all to himself. Without Psa 71:19-21 being subordinate to עד־אגיד in Psa 71:18, וצדקתך is coupled by close connection with בגורתך. Psa 71:19 is an independent clause; and עד־מרום takes the place of the predicate: the righteousness of God exceeds all bounds, is infinite (Psa 36:6., Psa 57:11). The cry כמוך מי, as in Psa 35:10; Psa 69:9, Jer 10:6, refers back to Exo 15:11. According to the Chethb, the range of the poet's vision widens in Psa 71:20 from the proofs of the strength and righteousness of God which he has experienced in his own case to those which he has experienced in common with others in the history of his own nation. The Ker (cf. on the other hand Psa 60:5; Psa 85:7; Deu 31:17) rests upon a failing to discern how the experiences of the writer are interwoven with those of the nation. תּשׁוּב in both instances supplies the corresponding adverbial notion to the principal verb, as in Psa 85:7 (cf. Psa 51:4). תּהום, prop. a rumbling, commonly used of a deep heaving of waters, here signifies an abyss. "The abysses of the earth" (lxx ἐκ τῶν ἀβύσσων τῆς γῆς, just as the old Syriac version renders the New Testament ἄβυσσος, e.g., in Luk 8:31, by Syr. tehūmā') are, like the gates of death (Psa 9:14), a figure of extreme perils and dangers, in the midst of which one is as it were half hidden in the abyss of Hades. The past and future are clearly distinguished in the sequence of the tenses. When God shall again raise His people out of the depth of the present catastrophe, then will He also magnify the גּדלּה of the poet, i.e., in the dignity of his office, by most brilliantly vindicating him in the face of his foes, and will once more (תּסּוב, fut. Niph. like תּשׁוּב ekil .h above) comfort him. He on his part will also (cf. Job 40:14) be grateful for this national restoration and this personal vindication: he will praise God, will praise His truth, i.e., His fidelity to His promises. בּכלי נבל instead of בּנבל sounds more circumstantial than in the old poetry. The divine name "The Holy One of Israel" occurs here for the third time in the Psalter; the other passages are Psa 78:41; Psa 89:19, which are older in time, and older also than Isaiah, who uses it thirty times, and Habakkuk, who uses it once. Jeremiah has it twice (Jer 50:29; Jer 51:5), and that after the example of Isaiah. In Psa 71:23, Psa 71:24 the poet means to say that lips and tongue, song and speech, shall act in concert in the praise of God. תּרנּנּה with Dagesh also in the second Nun, after the form תּקוננּה, תּשׁכּנּה, side by side with which we also find the reading תּרנּנּה, and the reading תּרנּנה, which is in itself admissible, after the form תּאמנה, תּעגנה, but is here unattested.
(Note: Heidenheim reads תּרנּנּה with Segol, following the statement of Ibn-Bil'am in his טעמי המקרא and of Mose ha-Nakdan in his דרכי הנקוד, that Segol always precedes the ending נּה, with the exception only of הנּה and האזנּה. Baer, on the other hand, reads תונּנּה, following Aben-Ezra and Kimchi (Michlol 66b).)
The cohortative after כּי (lxx ὅταν) is intended to convey this meaning: when I feel myself impelled to harp unto Thee. In the perfects in the closing line that which is hoped for stands before his soul as though it had already taken place. כי is repeated with triumphant emphasis.