Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Consolation of Prayer under the Oppression of Tyrants
This Psalm, akin to Psa 92:1-15 and Psa 93:1-5 by the community of the anadiplosis, bears the inscription Ψαλμὸς ᾠδῆς τῷ Δαυίδ, τετράδι σαββάτου in the lxx. It is also a Talmudic tradition
(Note: According to B. Erachin 11a, at the time of the Chaldaean destruction of Jerusalem the Levites on their pulpits were singing this 94th Psalm, and as they came to the words "and He turneth back upon them their iniquity" (Psa 94:23), the enemies pressed into the Temple, so that they were not able to sing the closing words, "Jahve, our God, will destroy them." To the scruple that Ps 94 is a Wednesday, not a Sunday, Psalm (that fatal day, however, was a Sunday, מוצאי שׁבת), it is replied, it may have been a lamentation song that had just been put into their mouths by the circumstances of that time (אלייא בעלמא דעלמא דנפל להו בפומייהו).)
that it was the Wednesday song in the Temple liturgy (τετράδι σαββάτου = ברביעי בשׁבת). Athanasius explains it by a reference to the fourth month (Jer 39:2). The τῳ Δαυίδ, however, is worthless. It is a post-Davidic Psalm; for, although it comes out of one mould, we still meet throughout with reminiscences of older Davidic and Asaphic models. The enemies against whom it supplicates the appearing of the God of righteous retribution are, as follows from a comparison of Psa 94:5, Psa 94:8, Psa 94:10, Psa 94:12, non-Israelites, who despise the God of Israel and fear not His vengeance, Psa 94:7; whose barbarous doings, however, call forth, even among the oppressed people themselves, foolish doubts concerning Jahve's omniscient beholding and judicial interposition. Accordingly the Psalm is one of the latest, but not necessarily a Maccabaean Psalm. The later Persian age, in which the Book of Ecclesiastes was written, could also exhibit circumstances and moods such as these.
The first strophe prays that God would at length put a judicial restraint upon the arrogance of ungodliness. Instead of חופיע (a less frequent form of the imperative for הופע, Ges. ֗53, rem. 3) it was perhaps originally written הופיעה (Psa 80:2), the He of which has been lost owing to the He that follows. The plural נקמות signifies not merely single instances of taking vengeance (Eze 25:17, cf. supra Psa 18:48), but also intensively complete revenge or recompense (Jdg 11:36; Sa2 4:8). The designation of God is similar to אל גּמלות in Jer 51:56, and the anadiplosis is like Psa 94:3, Psa 94:23, Psa 93:1, Psa 93:3. הנּשׂא, lift Thyself up, arise, viz., in judicial majesty, calls to mind Psa 7:7. השׁיב גּמוּל is construed with על (cf. ל, Psa 28:4; 59:18) as in Joe 3:4. With גּאים accidentally accord ἀγαυός and κύδεΐ γαίων in the epic poets.
The second strophe describes those over whom the first prays that the judgment of God may come. הבּיע (cf. הטּיף) is a tropical phrase used of that kind of speech that results from strong inward impulse and flows forth in rich abundance. The poet himself explains how it is here (cf. Psa 59:8) intended: they speak עתק, that which is unrestrained, unbridled, insolent (vid., Psa 31:19). The Hithpa. התאמּר Schultens interprets ut Emiri (Arab. 'mı̂r, a commander) se gerunt; but אמיר signifies in Hebrew the top of a tree (vid., on Isa 17:9); and from the primary signification to tower aloft, whence too אמר, to speak, prop. effere = effari, התאמּר, like התימּר in Isa 61:6, directly signifies to exalt one's self, to carry one's self high, to strut. On ודכּאוּ cf. Pro 22:22; Isa 3:15; and on their atheistical principle which ויּאמרוּ places in closest connection with their mode of action, cf. Psa 10:11; Psa 59:8 extrem. The Dagesh in יּהּ, distinct from the Dag. in the same word in Psa 94:12, Psa 118:5, Psa 118:18, is the Dag. forte conjunct. according to the rule of the so-called דחיק.
The third strophe now turns from those bloodthirsty, blasphemous oppressors of the people of God whose conduct calls forth the vengeance of Jahve, to those among the people themselves, who have been puzzled about the omniscience and indirectly about the righteousness of God by the fact that this vengeance is delayed. They are called בערים and כסילים in the sense of Psa 73:21. Those hitherto described against whom God's vengeance is supplicated are this also; but this appellation would be too one-sided for them, and בּעם refers the address expressly to a class of men among the people whom those oppress and slay. It is absurd that God, the planter of the ear (הנּטע, like שׁסע in Lev 11:7, with an accented ultima, because the praet. Kal does not follow the rule for the drawing back of the accent called נסוג אחור) and the former of the eye (cf. Psa 40:7; Exo 4:11), should not be able to hear and to see; everything that is excellent in the creature, God must indeed possess in original, absolute perfection.
(Note: The questions are not: ought He to have no ear, etc.; as Jerome pertinently observes in opposition to the anthropomorphites, membra tulit, efficientias dedit.)
The poet then points to the extra-Israelitish world and calls God יסר גּוים, which cannot be made to refer to a warning by means of the voice of conscience; יסר used thus without any closer definition does not signify "warning," but "chastening" (Pro 9:7). Taking his stand upon facts like those in Job 12:23, the poet assumes the punitive judicial rule of God among the heathen to be an undeniable fact, and presents for consideration the question, whether He who chasteneth nations cannot and will not also punish the oppressors of His church (cf. Gen 18:25), He who teacheth men knowledge, i.e., He who nevertheless must be the omnipotent One, since all knowledge comes originally from Him? Jahve - thus does the course of argument close in Psa 94:11 - sees through (ידע of penetrative perceiving or knowing that goes to the very root of a matter) the thoughts of men that they are vanity. Thus it is to be interpreted, and not: for they (men) are vanity; for this ought to have been כּי הבל המּה, whereas in the dependent clause, when the predicate is not intended to be rendered especially prominent, as in Ps 9:21, the pronominal subject may precede, Isa 61:9; Jer 46:5 (Hitzig). The rendering of the lxx (Co1 3:20), ὅτι εἰσὶ μάταιοι (Jerome, quoniam vanae sunt), is therefore correct; המּה, with the customary want of exactness, stands for הנּה. It is true men themselves are הבל; it is not, however, on this account that He who sees through all things sees through their thoughts, but He sees through them in their sinful vanity.
The fourth strophe praises the pious sufferer, whose good cause God will at length aid in obtaining its right. The "blessed" reminds one of Psa 34:9; Psa 40:5, and more especially of Job 5:17, cf. Pro 3:11. Here what are meant are sufferings like those bewailed in Psa 94:5., which are however, after all, the well-meant dispensations of God. Concerning the aim and fruit of purifying and testing afflictions God teaches the sufferer out of His Law (cf. e.g., Deu 8:5.), in order to procure him rest, viz., inward rest (cf. Jer 49:23 with Isa 30:15), i.e., not to suffer him to be disheartened and tempted by days of wickedness, i.e., wicked, calamitous days (Ew. 287, b), until (and it will inevitably come to pass) the pit is finished being dug into which the ungodly falls headlong (cf. Psa 112:7.). יּהּ has the emphatic Dagesh, which properly does not double, and still less unite, but requires an emphatic pronunciation of the letter, which might easily become inaudible. The initial Jod of the divine name might easily lose it consonantal value here in connection with the preceding toneless û,
(Note: If it is correct that, as Aben-Ezra and Parchon testify, the וּ, as being compounded of o (u) + i, was pronounced like the u in the French word pur by the inhabitants of Palestine, then this Dagesh, in accordance with its orthophonic function, is the more intelligible in cases like תיסרנו יּה and קראתי יּה, cf. Pinsker, Einleitung, S. 153, and Geiger, Urschrift, S. 277. In קומו צּאו, Gen 19:14; Exo 12:31, קומו סּעו, Deu 2:24, Tsade and Samech have this Dagesh for the same reason as the Sin in תשׁביתו שּׁאור, Exo 12:15 (vid., Heidenheim on that passage), viz., because there is a danger in all these cases of slurring over the sharp sibilant. Even Chajug' (vid., Ewald and Dukes' Beitrge, iii. 23) confuses this Dag. orthophonicum with the Dag. forte conjunctivum.)
and the Dag. guards against this: cf. Psa 118:5, Psa 118:18. The certainty of the issue that is set in prospect by עד is then confirmed with כּי. It is impossible that God can desert His church - He cannot do this, because in general right must finally come to His right, or, as it is here expressed, משׁפּט must turn to צדק, i.e., the right that is now subdued must at length be again strictly maintained and justly administered, and "after it then all who are upright in heart," i.e., all such will side with it, joyously greeting that which has been long missed and yearned after. משׁפּט is fundamental right, which is at all times consistent with itself and raised above the casual circumstances of the time, and צדק, like אמת in Isa 42:3, is righteousness (justice), which converts this right into a practical truth and reality.
In the fifth strophe the poet celebrates the praise of the Lord as his sole, but also trusty and most consolatory help. The meaning of the question in Psa 94:16 is, that there is no man who would rise and succour him in the conflict with the evil-doers; ל as in Exo 14:25; Jdg 6:31, and עם (without נלחם or the like) in the sense of contra, as in Psa 55:19, cf. Ch2 20:6. God alone is his help. He alone has rescued him from death. היה is to be supplied to לוּלי: if He had not been, or: if He were not; and the apodosis is: then very little would have been wanting, then it would soon have come to this, that his soul would have taken up its abode, etc.; cf. on the construction Psa 119:92; Psa 124:1-5; Isa 1:9, and on כּמעט with the praet. Psa 73:2; Psa 119:87; Gen 26:10 (on the other hand with the fut. Psa 81:15). דּוּמה is, as in Psa 115:17, the silence of the grave and of Hades; here it is the object to שׁכנה, as in Psa 37:3, Pro 8:12, and frequently. When he appears to himself already as one that has fallen, God's mercy holds him up. And when thoughts, viz., sad and fearful thoughts, are multiplied within him, God's comforts delight him, viz., the encouragement of His word and the inward utterances of His Spirit. שׁרעפּים, as in Psa 139:23, is equivalent to שעפּים, from שׂעף, סעף, Arab. š‛b, to split, branch off (Psychology, S. 181; tr. p. 214). The plural form ישׁעשׁעוּ, like the plural of the imperative in Isa 29:9, has two Pathachs, the second of which is the "independentification" of the Chateph of ישׁעשׁע.
In the sixth strophe the poet confidently expects the inevitable divine retribution for which he has earnestly prayed in the introduction. יחברך is erroneously accounted by many (and by Gesenius too) as fut. Pual = יחבּרך = יחבּר עמּך, a vocal contraction together with a giving up of the reduplication in favour of which no example can be advanced. It is fut. Kal = יחברך, from יחבּר = יחבּר, with the same regression of the modification of the vowel
(Note: By means of a similar transposition of the vowel as is to be assumed in תּאהבוּ, Pro 1:22, it also appears that מדוּבּין = מוּסבּין (lying upon the table, ἀνακείμενοι) of the Pesach-Haggada has to be explained, which Joseph Kimchi finds so inexplicable that he regards it as a clerical error that has become traditional.)
as in יחנך = יחנך in Gen 43:29; Isa 30:19 (Hupfeld), but as in verbs primae gutturalis, so also in כּתבם, כּתבם, inflected from כּתב, Ew. ֗251, d. It might be more readily regarded as Poel than as Pual (like תּאכלנוּ, Job 20:26), but the Kal too already signifies to enter into fellowship (Gen 14:3; Hos 4:17), therefore (similarly to יגרך, Psa 5:5) it is: num consociabitur tecum. כּסּא is here the judgment-seat, just as the Arabic cursi directly denotes the tribunal of God (in distinction from Arab. 'l-‛arš, the throne of His majesty). With reference to הוּות vid., on Psa 5:10. Assuming that חק is a divine statute, we obtain this meaning for עלי־חק: which frameth (i.e., plots and executes) trouble, by making the written divine right into a rightful title for unrighteous conduct, by means of which the innocent are plunged into misfortune. Hitzig renders: contrary to order, after Pro 17:26, where, however, על־ישׁר is intended like ἕνεκεν δικαιοσύνης, Mat 5:10. Olshausen proposes to read יגוּרוּ (Psa 56:7; Psa 59:4) instead of יגודּוּ, just as conversely Aben-Ezra in Psa 56:7 reads יגודּוּ. But גּדד, גּוּד, has the secured signification of scindere, incidere (cf. Arab. jdd, but also chd, supra, p. 255), from which the signification invadere can be easily derived (whence גּדוּד, a breaking in, invasion, an invading host). With reference to דּם נקי vid., Psychology, S. 243 (tr. p. 286): because the blood is the soul, that is said of the blood which applies properly to the person. The subject to יגודו are the seat of corruption (by which a high council consisting of many may be meant, just as much as a princely throne) and its accomplices. Prophetic certainty is expressed in ויהי and ויּשׁב. The figure of God as משׂגּב is Davidic and Korahitic. צוּר מחסּי צוּר is explained from Psa 18:2. Since השׁיב designates the retribution as a return of guilt incurred in the form of actual punishment, it might be rendered "requite" just as well as "cause to return;" עליהם, however, instead of להם (Psa 54:7) makes the idea expressed in Psa 7:17 more natural. On ברעתם Hitzig correctly compares Sa2 14:7; Sa2 3:27. The Psalm closes with an anadiplosis, just as it began with one; and אלהינוּ affirms that the destruction of the persecutor will follow as surely as the church is able to call Jahve its God.