Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 10: Psalms, Part III, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
David in this psalm prays to God, in the name of the whole Church, for the continual prosperity of the kingdom which was promised him, and teaches us at the same time, that the true happiness of the godly consists in their being placed under the government of a king who was raised to the throne by the appointment of heaven.
¶ Of Solomon. 119
From the inscription of this psalm we cannot determine who was its author. As it is expressly said at the close to be the last of David’s prayers, it is more probable that it was composed by him than by Solomon, his successor. 120 It may, however, be conjectured that Solomon reduced the prayer of his father into poetical measure, to make it more generally known, and to bring it more extensively into use among the people, — a conjecture which is not improbable. But as the letter ל, lamed, has many significations in Hebrew, it may be explained as denoting that this psalm was composed for or in behalf of Solomon. If this is admitted, it is to be observed, that under the person of one man there is comprehended the state of the kingdom through successive ages. After having carefully weighed the whole matter, I am disposed to acquiesce in the conjecture, that the prayers to which David gave utterance on his death-bed were reduced by his son into the form of a psalm, with the view of their being kept in everlasting remembrance. To indicate the great importance of this prayer, and to induce the faithful with the greater earnestness to unite their prayers with the memorable prayer of this holy king, it is expressly added, that this is the last which he poured forth. As Solomon did nothing more than throw into the style of poetry the matter to which his father gave expression, David is to be considered as the principal author of this inspired composition. Those who would interpret it simply as a prophecy of the kingdom of Christ, seem to put a construction upon the words which does violence to them; and then we must always beware of giving the Jews occasion of making an outcry, as if it were our purpose, sophistically, to apply to Christ those things which do not directly refer to him. But as David, who was anointed king by the commandment of God, knew that the terms upon which he and his posterity possessed the kingdom were, that the power and dominion should at length come to Christ; and as he farther knew that the temporal well-being of the people was, for the time, comprehended in this kingdom, as held by him and his posterity, and that from it, which was only a type or shadow, there should at length proceed something far superior — that is, spiritual and everlasting felicity; knowing, as he did, all this, he justly made the perpetual duration of this kingdom the object of his most intense solicitude, and prayed with the deepest earnestness in its behalf, — reiterating his prayer in his last moments, with the view of distinctly testifying, that of all his cares this was the greatest. What is here spoken of everlasting dominion cannot be limited to one man, or to a few, nor even to twenty ages; but there is pointed out the succession which had its end and its complete accomplishment in Christ.
1. O God! give thy judgments to the king, and thy righteousness to the king’s son. 2. He shall judge thy people in righteousness, and thy poor ones in judgment. 3. The mountains shall bring forth peace to the people, and the hills in righteousness. 121 4. He shall judge the poor of the people; he shall save the children of the afflicted; and shall break in pieces the calumniator. 5. They shall fear thee with the sun; and generation of generations shall fear thee 122 in the presence of the moon. 6. He shall descend as rain upon the mown grass; as the showers 123 which water the earth.
1. O God! give thy judgments to the king. 124 While David, to whom the promise had been made, at his death affectionately recommended to God his son, who was to succeed him in his kingdom, he doubtless endited to the Church a common form of prayer, that the faithful, convinced of the impossibility of being prosperous and happy, except under one head, should show all respect, and yield all obedience to this legitimate order of things, and also that from this typical kingdom they might be conducted to Christ. In short, this is a prayer that God would furnish the king whom he had chosen with the spirit of uprightness and wisdom. By the terms righteousness and judgment, the Psalmist means a due and well-regulated administration of government, which he opposes to the tyrannical and unbridled license of heathen kings, who, despising God, rule according to the dictates of their own will; and thus the holy king of Israel, who was anointed to his office by divine appointment, is distinguished from other earthly kings. From the words we learn by the way, that no government in the world can be rightly managed but under the conduct of God, and by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. If kings possessed in themselves resources sufficiently ample, it would have been to no purpose for David to have sought by prayer from another, that with which they were of themselves already provided. But in requesting that the righteousness and judgment of God may be given to kings, he reminds them that none are fit for occupying that exalted station, except in so far as they are formed for it by the hand of God. Accordingly, in the Proverbs of Solomon, (Pr 8:15,) Wisdom proclaims that kings reign by her. Nor is this to be wondered at, when we consider that civil government is so excellent an institution, that God would have us to acknowledge him as its author, and claims to himself the whole praise of it. But it is proper for us to descend from the general to the particular; for since it is the peculiar work of God to set up and to maintain a rightful government in the world, it was much more necessary for him to communicate the special grace of his Spirit for the maintenance and preservation of that sacred kingdom which he had chosen in preference to all others. By the king’s son David no doubt means his successors. At the same time, he has an eye to this promise:
“Of the fruit of thy body will I set upon thy throne,”
But no such stability as is indicated in that passage is to be found in the successors of David, till we come to Christ. We know that after the death of Solomon, the dignity of the kingdom decayed, and from that time its wealth became impaired, until, by the carrying of the people into captivity, and the ignominious death inflicted upon their king, the kingdom was involved in total ruin. And even after their return from Babylon, their restoration was not such as to inspire them with any great hope, until at length Christ sprung forth from the withered stock of Jesse. He therefore holds the first rank among the children of David.
2. He shall judge thy people in righteousness. Some read this in the form of a wish — O that he may judge, etc. Others retain the future tense; and thus it is a prophecy. But we will come nearer the correct interpretation by understanding something intermediate, as implied. All that is afterwards spoken, concerning the king, flows from the supposition, that the blessing prayed for in the first verse is conferred upon him — from the supposition that he is adorned with righteousness and judgment. The prayer, then, should be explained thus: Govern our king, O God! that he may judge. Or in this way, When thou shalt have bestowed upon the king thy righteousness, then he will judge uprightly. To govern a nation well, is an endowment far too excellent to grow out of the earth; but the spiritual government of Christ, by which all things are restored to perfect order, ought much more to be considered a gift of heaven. In the first clause of the verse, David speaks of the whole people in general. In the second clause, he expressly mentions the poor, who, on account of their poverty and weakness, have need of the help of others, and for whose sake kings are armed with the sword to grant them redress when unjustly oppressed. Hence, also, proceeds peace, of which mention is made in the third verse. The term peace being employed among the Hebrews to denote not only rest and tranquillity, but also prosperity, David teaches us that the people would enjoy prosperity and happiness, when the affairs of the nation were administered according to the principles of righteousness. The bringing forth of peace is a figurative expression taken from the fertility of the earth. 125 And when it is said that the mountains and hills shall bring forth peace, 126 the meaning is, that no corner would be found in the country in which it did not prevail, not even the most unpromising parts, indicated by the mountains, which are commonly barren, or at least do not produce so great an abundance of fruits as the valleys. Besides, both the word peace and the word righteousness are connected with each clause of the verse, and must be twice repeated, 127 the idea intended to be conveyed being, that peace by righteousness 128 should be diffused through every part of the world. Some read simply righteousness, instead of In righteousness, supposing the letter ב, beth, to be here redundant, which does not, however, appear to be the case. 129
4. He shall judge the poor of the people. The poet continues his description of the end and fruit of a righteous government, and unfolds at greater length what he had briefly touched upon concerning the afflicted among the people. But it is a truth which ought to be borne in mind, that kings can keep themselves within the bounds of justice and equity only by the grace of God; for when they are not governed by the Spirit of righteousness proceeding from heaven, their government is converted into a system of tyranny and robbery. As God had promised to extend his care to the poor and afflicted among his people, David, as an argument to enforce the prayer which he presents in behalf of the king, shows that the granting of it will tend to the comfort of the poor. God is indeed no respecter of persons; but it is not without cause that God takes a more special care of the poor than of others, since they are most exposed to injuries and violence. Let laws and the administration of justice be taken away, and the consequence will be, that the more powerful a man is, he will be the more able to oppress his poor brethren. David, therefore, particularly mentions that the king will be the defender of those who can only be safe under the protection of the magistrate, and declares that he will be their avenger when they are made the victims of injustice and wrong. The phrase, The children of the afflicted, is put for the afflicted, an idiom quite common in Hebrew, and a similar form of expression is sometimes used by the Greeks, as when they say υἱους ἰατρων, the sons of physicians, for physicians. 130 But as the king cannot discharge the duty of succouring and defending the poor which David imposes upon him, unless he curb the wicked by authority and the power of the sword, it is very justly added in the end of the verse, that when righteousness reigns, oppressors or extortioners will be broken in pieces. It would be foolish to wait till they should give place of their own accord. They must be repressed by the sword, that their audacity and wickedness may be prevented from proceeding to greater lengths. It is therefore requisite for a king to be a man of wisdom, and resolutely prepared effectually to restrain the violent and injurious, that the rights of the meek and orderly may be preserved unimpaired. Thus none will be fit for governing a people but he who has learned to be rigorous when the case requires. Licentiousness must necessarily prevail under an effeminate and inactive sovereign, or even under one who is of a disposition too gentle and forbearing. There is much truth in the old saying, that it is worse to live under a prince through whose lenity everything is lawful, than under a tyrant where there is no liberty at all.
5. They shall fear thee with the sun If this is read as an apostrophe, or change of person, it may be properly and without violence understood of the king; implying, that the ornaments or distinctions which chiefly secure to a sovereign reverence from his subjects are his impartially securing to every man the possession of his own rights, and his manifesting a spirit of humanity ready at all times to succor the poor and miserable, as well as a spirit determined rigorously to subdue the audacity of the wicked. But it will be more appropriate, without changing the person, to explain it of God himself. 131 The preservation of mutual equity among men is an inestimable blessing; but the service of God is well worthy of being preferred even to this. David, therefore, very properly commends to us the blessed fruits of a holy and righteous government, by telling us that it will draw in its train true religion and the fear of God. And Paul, when enjoining us in 1Ti 2:2, to pray for kings, expressly mentions what we ought to have in view in our prayers, which is, “that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” As there is no small danger, were civil government overthrown, of religion being destroyed, and the worship of God annihilated, David beseeches God to have respect to his own name and glory in preserving the king. By this argument he at once reminds kings of their duty, and stirs up the people to prayer; for we cannot be better employed than in directing all our desires and prayers to the advancement of the service and honor of God. When we come to Christ, this is far more truly applicable to him, true religion being established in his kingdom and nowhere else. And certainly David, in describing the worship or service of God as continuing to the end of the world, intimates by the way that he ascends in thought to that everlasting kingdom which God had promised: They shall fear thee with the sun; and generation of generations shall fear thee in the presence of the moon. 132
6. He shall descend as the rain upon the mown grass. This comparison may seem at first sight to be somewhat harsh; but it elegantly and appositely expresses the great advantage which is derived by all from the good and equitable constitution of a kingdom. Meadows, we know, are cut in the beginning of summer when the heat prevails; and did not the earth imbibe new moisture by the falling rain, even the very roots of the herbage would wither by reason of the barren and parched state of the soil. David, therefore, teaches us that as God defends the earth from the heat of the sun by watering it, so he in like manner provides for the welfare of his Church, and defends it under the government of the king. But this prediction has received its highest fulfillment in Christ, who, by distilling upon the Church his secret grace, renders her fruitful.
7. In his days shall the righteous flourish; and there shall be abundance of peace, so long as the moon endureth. 133 8. He shall have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth. 9. The inhabitants of the desert shall bow before him; and his enemies shall lick the dust. 10. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring a present: the kings of Sheba and Seba shall bring a gift to him. 11. And all kings shall prostrate themselves before him; all nations shall serve him.
7. In his days shall the righteous flourish It is unnecessary for me frequently to repeat what I have once stated, that all these sentences depend upon the first verse. David, therefore, prayed that the king might be adorned with righteousness and judgment, that the just might flourish and the people prosper. This prediction receives its highest fulfillment in Christ. It was, indeed, the duty of Solomon to maintain the righteous; but it is the proper office of Christ to make men righteous. He not only gives to every man his own, but also reforms their hearts through the agency of his Spirit. By this means he brings righteousness back, as it were, from exile, which otherwise would be altogether banished from the world. Upon the return of righteousness there succeeds the blessing of God, by which he causes all his children to rejoice in the way of making them to perceive that under their King, Christ, every provision is made for their enjoying all manner of prosperity and felicity. If any would rather take the word peace in its proper and more restricted signification, I have no objections to it. And, certainly, to the consummation of a happy life, nothing is more desirable than peace; for amidst the turmoils and contentions of war, men derive almost no good from having an abundance of all things, as it is then wasted and destroyed. Moreover, when David represents the life of the king as prolonged to the end of the world, this shows more clearly that he not only comprehends his successors who occupied an earthly throne, but that he ascends even to Christ, who, by rising from the dead, obtained for himself celestial life and glory, that he might govern his Church for ever.
8 He shall have dominion from sea to sea. As the Lord, when he promised his people the land of Canaan for an inheritance, assigned to it these four boundaries, (Ge 15:18,) David intimates, that so long as the kingdom shall continue to exist, the possession of the promised land will be entire, to teach the faithful that the blessing of God cannot be fully realised, except whilst this kingdom shall flourish. He therefore declares that he will exercise dominion from the Red Sea, or from that arm of the Egyptian sea to the sea of Syria, which is called the Sea of the Philistines, 134 and also from the river Euphrates to the great wilderness. If it is objected that such narrow bounds do not correspond with the kingdom of Christ, which was to be extended from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof, we reply, that David obviously accommodates his language to his own time, the amplitude of the kingdom of Christ not having been, as yet, fully unfolded. He has therefore begun his description in phraseology well known, and in familiar use under the law and the prophets; and even Christ himself commenced his reign within the limits here marked out before he penetrated to the uttermost boundaries of the earth; as it is said in Ps 110:2,
“The Lord shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion.”
But, soon after, the Psalmist proceeds to speak of the enlarged extent of the empire of this king, declaring that the kings beyond the sea shall also be tributaries to him; and also that the inhabitants of the desert shall receive his yoke. The word ציים, tsiim, 135 which we have translated inhabitants of the desert, is, I have no doubt, to be understood of those who, dwelling towards the south, were at a great distance from the land of Canaan. The Prophet immediately adds, that the enemies of the king shall lick the dust in token of their reverence. This, as is well known, was in ancient times a customary ceremony among the nations of the East; and Alexander the Great, after he had conquered the East, wished to compel his subjects to practice it, from which arose great dissatisfaction and contentions, the Macedonians disdainfully refusing to yield such a slavish and degrading mark of subjection. 136 The meaning then is, that the king chosen by God in Judea will obtain so complete a victory over all his enemies, far and wide, that they shall come humbly to pay him homage.
10. The kings of Tarshish and of the isles shall bring presents. The Psalmist still continues, as in the preceding verse, to speak of the extent of the kingdom. The Hebrews apply the appellation of Tarshish to the whole coast, which looks towards Cilicia. By the isles, therefore, is denoted the whole coast of the Mediterranean Sea, from Cilicia to Greece. As the Jews, contenting themselves with the commodities of their own country, did not undertake voyages to distant countries, like other nations; God having expressly required them to confine themselves within the limits of their own country, that they might not be corrupted by the manners of strangers; they were accustomed, in consequence of this, to apply the appellation of isles to those countries which were on the other side of the sea. I indeed admit that Cyprus, Crete, and other islands, are comprehended under this name; but I also maintain that it applies to all the territories which were situated beyond the Mediterranean Sea. By the words מנחה, minchah, a present, and אשכר, eshcar, a gift, must be understood any tribute or custom, and not voluntary offerings; for it is vanquished enemies, and the mark or token of their subjection, which are spoken of. These terms appear to be used intentionally in this place, in order to mitigate the odium attached to such a mark of subjugation; 137 as if the inspired writer indirectly reproved subjects, if they defrauded their kings of their revenues. By שבא, Sheba, some think Arabia is intended, and by שבא, Seba, Ethiopia. Some, however, by the first word understand all that part of the Gulf of Arabia which lies towards Africa; and by the second, which is written with the letter ס, samech, the country of Sabea, 138 the more pleasant and fruitful country. This opinion is probably the more correct of the two. It is unnecessary here to remark how foolishly this passage has been wrested in the Church of Rome. They chant this verse as referring to the philosophers or wise men who came to worship Christ; as if, indeed, it were in their power of philosophers to make kings all upon a sudden; and in addition to this, to change the quarters of the world, to make of the east the south or the west.
11. And all kings shall prostrate themselves before him. This verse contains a more distinct statement of the truth, That the whole world will be brought in subjection to the authority of Christ. The kingdom of Judah was unquestionably never more flourishing than under the reign of Solomon; but even then there were only a small number of kings who paid tribute to him, and what they paid was inconsiderable in amount; and, moreover, it was paid upon condition that they should be allowed to live in the enjoyment of liberty under their own laws. While David then began with his own son, and the posterity of his son, he rose by the Spirit of prophecy to the spiritual kingdom of Christ; a point worthy of our special notice, since it teaches us that we have not been called to the hope of everlasting salvation by chance, but because our heavenly Father had already destined to give us to his Son. From this we also learn, that in the Church and flock of Christ there is a place for kings; whom David does not here disarm of their sword nor despoil of their crown, in order to admit them into the Church, but rather declares that they will come with all the dignity of their station to prostrate themselves at the feet of Christ.
12. For he will deliver the poor when he crieth to him; and the afflicted person who hath none to succor him. 13. He will have pity on the poor and indigent; and will save the souls [or lives] of the poor. 14. He will redeem their souls from fraud and violence: and their blood will be precious in his sight. 15. And he shall live; and there shall be given to him of the gold of Sheba; and prayer shall continually be made for him, and daily shall he be blessed.
12. For he will deliver the poor when he crieth to him. The Psalmist again affirms that the kingdom which he magnifies so greatly will not be tyrannical or cruel. The majority of kings, neglecting the well-being of the community, have their minds wholly engrossed with their own private interests. The consequence is, that they unmercifully oppress their miserable subjects; and it even happens that the more formidable any of them is, and the more absorbing his rapacity, he is accounted so much the more eminent and illustrious. But it is far different with the king here described. It has been held as a proverb by all mankind, “That there is nothing in which men approach nearer to God than by their beneficence;” and it would be very inconsistent did not this virtue shine forth in those kings whom God has more nearly linked to himself. Accordingly, David, to render the king beloved who was chosen of God, justly declares, not only that he will be the guardian of justice and equity, but also that he will be so humane and merciful, as to be ready to afford succor to the most despised; qualities too seldom to be found in sovereigns, who, dazzled with their own splendor, withdraw themselves to a distance from the poor and the afflicted, as if it were unworthy of, and far beneath, their royal dignity to make them the objects of their care. David avows that the blood of the common people, which is usually accounted vile and as a thing of nought, will be very precious in the estimation of this heavenly king. Constancy and magnanimity are denoted by the words he will redeem; for it would be far short of the duty of a king merely to hate fraud and extortion, did he not resolutely come forward to punish these crimes and set himself to defend those who are oppressed. 139 Under the terms fraud and violence is comprehended all kind of wrong-doing; for a man in working mischief is either a lion or a fox. Some rage with open violence, and others proceed to wrong-doing insidiously and by secret arts. Moreover, we know that supreme sovereignty, both in heaven and earth, has been given to Christ, (Mt 28:18,) that he may defend his people not only from all temporal dangers, but especially from all the harassing annoyances of Satan, until having delivered them at length from all trouble, he gather them into the everlasting rest of his heavenly kingdom.
15. And he shall live. To refer the word live to the poor, as some do, seems forced. What David affirms is, that this king shall be rewarded with long life, which is not the least of God’s earthly blessings. The words which follow are to be read indefinitely, that is to say, without determining any particular person; 140 as if it had been said, The gold of Arabia shall be given him, and prayers shall everywhere be made for his prosperity. There is thus again a repetition of what had been previously said concerning his power; for if Arabia shall pay him tribute, how vast an amount of riches will be gathered from so many countries nearer home! Christ, it is true, does not reign to hoard up gold, but David meant to teach by this figure, that even the nations which were most remote would yield such homage to him, as to surrender to him themselves and all that they possessed. It is no uncommon thing for the glory of the spiritual kingdom of Christ to be portrayed under images of outward splendor. David, in conformity with this usual style of Scripture, has here foretold that the kingdom of Christ would be distinguished for its wealth; but this is to be understood as referring to its spiritual character. Whence it appears how wickedly and wantonly the Papists have perverted this passage, and made it subserve their purpose of raking to themselves the perishable riches of the world. Moreover, when he speaks of the common prayers of the people, by which they will commend the prosperity of the king to the care of God, he intimates that so well-pleased will they be with being his subjects, that they will account nothing so desirable as to yield entire submission to his authority. Many, no doubt, reject his yoke, and hypocrites fret and murmur secretly in their hearts, and would gladly extinguish all remembrance of Christ, were it in their power; but the affectionate interest here predicted is what all true believers are careful to cultivate, not only because to pray for earthly kings is a duty enjoined upon them in the Word of God, but also because they ought to feel a special desire and solicitude for the enlargement of the boundaries of this kingdom, in which both the majesty of God shines forth, and their own welfare and happiness are included. Accordingly, in Ps 118:25, we will find a form of prayer dictated for the whole Church, That God would bless this king; not that Christ stands in need of our prayers, but because he justly requires from his servants this manifestation or proof of true piety; and by it they may also exercise themselves in praying for the coming of the kingdom of God.
16. A handful of corn shall be in the earth upon the top of the mountains; the fruit thereof shall be shaken as of Lebanon: 141 and they shall go forth from the city as it were a plant of the earth. 17. His name shall endure for ever: his name shall be continued in the presence of the sun: and all nations shall bless themselves in him, and shall call him blessed. 18. Blessed be Jehovah God! the God of Israel! who alone doeth wonderful things. 19. And blessed be his glorious name [literally, the name of his glory] for ever; and let all the earth be filled with his glory. Amen, and Amen. 20. The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended.
16. A handful of corn shall be 142 in the earth upon the top of the mountains. The opinion of those who take a handful 143 for a small portion appears to be well founded. They think that by the two circumstances here referred to, a rare and uncommon fertility is indicated. Only a very small quantity of wheat, not even more than a man can hold in the palm of his hand, has been sown, and that even upon the tops of the mountains, which generally are far from being fruitful; and yet so very abundant will be the increase, that the ears will wave and rustle in the winds as the trees on Lebanon. I do not, however, know whether so refined a comparison between seed-time and harvest is at all intended by David. His words may be considered more simply as denoting that so great will be the fertility, so abundant the produce of wheat which the mountain tops shall yield, that it may be reaped with full hand. By this figure is portrayed the large abundance of all good things which, through the blessing of God, would be enjoyed under the reign of Christ. To this is added the increase of children. Not only would the earth produce an abundance all kinds of fruits, but the cities and towns also would be fruitful in the production of men: And they shall go out 144 from the city as the grass of the earth I have preferred translating the word Lebanon in the genitive case instead of the nominative; for the metonomy of putting the name of the mountain, Lebanon, for the trees upon it, which is renounced by others, is somewhat harsh.
17. His name shall endure for ever The inspired writer again repeats what he had previously affirmed concerning the perpetual duration of this kingdom. And he doubtless intended carefully to distinguish it from earthly kingdoms, which either suddenly vanish away, or at length, oppressed with their own greatness, fall into ruin, affording by their destruction incontestible evidence that nothing in this world is stable and of long duration. When he says that his name shall endure for ever, it is not to be understood as merely implying that his fame should survive his death, as worldly men are ambitious that their name may not be buried with their body. He is rather speaking of the kingdom when he says that the name of this prince will continue illustrious and glorious for ever. Some explain the words לפני-שמש, liphney-shemesh, which we have rendered, in the presence of the sun, as if he meant that the glory with which God would invest the kings of Judah would surpass the brightness of the sun; but this is at variance with the context, for he had said above, (verse 5th,) in the same sense, with the sun, and in the presence of the moon.
After having, therefore, made mention of the everlasting duration of the name of this king, he subjoins, by way of explanation, his name shall be continued in the presence of the sun Literally it is, his name shall have children, 145 (for the Hebrew verb is derived from the noun for son,) that is to say, it shall be perpetuated from father to son; 146 and as the sun rises daily to enlighten the world, so shall the strength of this king be continually renewed, and thus will continue from age to age for ever. In like manner, we shall afterwards see that the sun and the moon are called witnesses of the same eternity, (Ps 89:38.) Whence it follows that this cannot be understood of the earthly kingdom, which flourished only for a short time in the house of David, and not only lost its vigor in the third successor, but was at length ignominiously extinguished. It properly applies to the kingdom of Christ; and although that kingdom often totters upon the earth when assailed with the furious hatred of the whole world, and battered by the most formidable engines of Satan, it is yet wonderfully upheld and sustained by God, that it may not altogether fail. The words which follow, All nations shall bless themselves in him, admit of a twofold meaning. The Hebrews often use this form of expression when the name of any man is used as an example or formula of prayer for blessings. For instance, a man blesses himself in David, who beseeches God to be as favorable and bountiful to him as he proved himself to be towards David. On the other hand, he is said to curse in Sodom and Gomorrah who employs the names of these cities by which to pronounce some curse. If, then, these two expressions, they shall bless themselves in him, and they shall call him blessed, are used in the same sense; the expression, to bless themselves in the king, will just mean to pray that the same prosperity may be conferred upon us which was conferred upon this highly favored king, whose happy condition will excite universal admiration. But if it is considered preferable to distinguish between these two expressions, (which is not less probable,) to bless one’s self in the king, will denote to seek happiness from him; for the nations will be convinced that nothing is more desirable than to receive from him laws and ordinances.
18. Blessed be Jehovah God! the God of Israel. 147 David, after having prayed for prosperity to his successors, breaks forth in praising God, because he was assured by the divine oracle that his prayers would not be in vain. Had he not with the eyes of faith beheld those things which we have seen above, his rejoicing would have been less free and lively. When he says that God alone doeth wonderful things, this, no doubt, is spoken in reference to the subject of which he is presently treating, with the view not only of commending the excellence of the kingdom, but also to admonish himself and others of the need which there is that God should display his wonderful and stupendous power for its preservation. And certainly it was not owing to any of David’s successors, a few excepted, that the royal throne did not fall a hundred times, yea, was not even completely ruined. To go no farther, was not Solomon’s most disgraceful apostasy deserving of utter destruction? And as to the rest of his successors, with the exception of Josias, Hezekiah, Jehoshaphat, and a few others, did they not fall from evil to worse, as if each strove to outstrip his predecessor, and thus so provoked the wrath of God, as it were deliberately, that it is wonderful that he did not immediately launch the thunderbolts of his vengeance upon the whole race utterly to destroy them? Moreover, as David, being endued with the Spirit of prophecy, was not ignorant that Satan would always continue to be a cruel enemy of the Church’s welfare, he doubtless knew that the grace of God, of which he presently speaks, would have great and arduous difficulties to overcome in order to continue for ever in his own nation. And the event afterwards unquestionably showed by how many miracles God accomplished his promises, whether we consider the return of his people from the captivity of Babylon, or the astonishing deliverances which followed until Christ as a tender branch sprung out of a dead tree. David, therefore, with good reason prays that the glory of the divine name may fill the whole earth, since that kingdom was to be extended even to the uttermost boundaries of the globe, And that all the godly, with earnest and ardent affection of heart, may unite with him in the same prayers, there is added a confirmation in the words, Amen, and Amen
20. The prayers of David the son of Jesse are ended. We have before observed that this was not without cause added by Solomon, (if we may suppose him to have put the matter of this psalm into the form of poetical compositions) not only that he might avoid defrauding his father of the praise which was due to him, but also to stir up the Church the more earnestly to pour forth before God the same prayers which David had continued to offer even with his last breath. Let us then remember that it is our bounden duty to pray to God, both with unfeigned earnestness, and with unwearied perseverance, that he would be pleased to maintain and defend the Church under the government of his Son. The name of Jesse, the father of David, seems to be here introduced to bring to remembrance David’s origin, that the grace of God may appear the more illustrious in having raised from the sheepfold a man of mean birth, as well as the youngest and the least esteemed among his brethren, and in having advanced him to so high a degree of honor, as to make him king over the chosen people.
“Ou, pour Solomon.” — Fr marg “Or, for Solomon.” The prefix ל, lamed, may be rendered either of or for
To this it may be added, as Dathe observes, that “Solomon could not, without the imputation of vanity, have predicted in such strains the glory of his reign, the admiration with which he would be regarded by other nations, and the happiness of his subjects, arising from his prudence and virtue.” The same writer adds, “But while David, or the inspired author, whoever he was, predicted the prosperity of Solomon’s reign, the promise given (2Sa 7) of that greatest and best of kings, who was afterwards to arise in the family of David, seems to have been brought before his mind. This is the reason that the description given is, in various respects, more suited to the reign of the Messiah than to the reign of Solomon.”
In the Septuagint, in righteousness is connected with the following verse — In righteousness he shall judge the poor of the people,” Dr Adam Clarke considers this to be the true division.
“Te craindra,” “shall fear thee,” is a supplement in the French version. There is no supplement in the Latin version.
“Comme les pluyes drues et longues.” — Fr. “As the plenteous and prolonged showers.”
“In other places, those events which God himself brings to pass in defending the righteous, and in punishing the wicked, are called his judgments, as in Ps 36:7; but the statutes promulgated by God for the regulation of human conduct are also styled his judgments. In this sense, the judgments and laws of God may be considered as synonymous terms, Ps. 119:20, 30, 39, 52, 75. The clause is justly explained by Jarchi: ‘Knowledge of the judgments — to wit, of the particular rules of right — which thou hast commanded in the law.’ The explication given by Kimchi is suitable also: ‘That he may not err in giving forth sentences, give him knowledge and understanding, that he may judge with judgment and justice.’” — Rosenmüller on the Messianic Psalms, Biblical Cabinet, volume 32, pp. 232, 233.
As the earth brings forth fruits, so shall the mountains bring forth peace. The same figure is used in Ps 85:12, where it is said, “Truth shall spring out of the earth.”
Dathe and Boothroyd take another view. According to them, the allusion is to the custom which, in ancient times, prevailed in the East, of announcing good or bad news from the tops of mountains, or other eminences; by means of which, acts of justice were speedily communicated to the remotest part of the country. The same image is used in Isa 40:9.
That is, we are to read thus: “The mountains shall bring forth peace to the people in righteousness; and the hills shall bring forth peace to the people in righteousness.”
“Peace by righteousness.” Calvin considers the Psalmist as representing peace to be the native fruit or effect of righteousness. Such also is the interpretation of Rosenmüller: “‘And the hills shall bring forth peace with justice, or because of justice.’ Justice and peace are joined together, as cause and effect. When iniquity or injustice prevails, general misery is the consequence; and, on the contrary, the prevalence of justice is followed by general felicity. The sense of the clause is, — happiness shall reign throughout the land, for the people shall be governed with equity.”
Rosenmüller, in like manner, objects to this reading. “Some expositors,” says he, “consider the prefix ב, beth, as redundant, or as denoting that the noun is in the accusative case; and that the clause may be rendered, And the hills shall bring forth justice Noldius, in his Concordance, adduces several passages as examples of a similar construction; but they appear, all of them, to be constructed on a different principle.”
Many examples of this Hebraism might be quoted. In Ec 10:17, “a son of nobles” is put for “a noble person;” in Ps 18:45, children of the stranger, for strangers; and, in many passages, children, or sons of men, for men, simply considered.
“The poet in this clause addresses God; not the king, of whom he speaks always in the third person. The sense is, This king shall establish and preserve among his subjects the true religion, — the uncorrupted worship of God. Michaelis, on this passage, justly remarks that this could not, without extreme flattery, be predicated of Solomon.” — Dathe.
“With the sun,” and “in the presence of the moon,” are Hebrew idioms, designating the eternity of the Messiah’s kingdom. “‘They shall venerate thee with the sun, and in presence of the moon;’ that is, as long as the sun shines, and is succeeded by the moon, or while the sun and moon continue to give light, — in a word, for ever. Compare verse seventh, where the same idea is expressed, only in a slightly different manner, — until there be no moon Ps 89:37 — ‘His throne shall be as the sun before me, as the moon it shall be established for ever.’ The word לפני, [translated in presence of,] in this passage, is to be understood in the same sense as in Ge 11:28, Mortuus est Haran, על-פני,coram facie Terah; ‘And Haran died before the face of Terah,’ that is, while Terah still survived. Hence, in Ps 102:28, where לפניך, coram te, ‘before thee,’ is used in reference to God, — the Alexandrine version gives εἰς αἰω̑νας ‘for ever.’ Here the sense is given in the words immediately following, דור דורים, generatio generationum, ‘a generation of generations’ shall venerate thee; — in other words, throughout all generations, or during a continual series of years, men shall celebrate thy happy and glorious reign.” — Rosenmüller Calvin also reads דור דורים, “generation of generations,” in the nominative case. The translators of our English Bible supply the preposition ל, lamed, thus making it, “throughout all generations.” But in either case the meaning is the same.
Literally, “till there be no moon;” till the end of the world — for ever.
Or the Mediterranean.
ציים, tsiim, is from ציה, tsiyah, a dry and parched country, a desert Rosenmüller translates it, the rude nations “The word ציים,” says he, “seems to signify rude, barbarous tribes; the inhabitants of desert places, — of vast and unknown regions. This sense appears to be most suitable, both here and in Ps 74:14. Hence it is used Isa. 13:21, Isa. 34:14; Jer 50:39, for the animals, — the wild beasts that inhabit jungles and deserts.” The LXX. translate it Αιθιοπες, “the Æthiopians;” and in like manner the Vulgate, Æthiopic, and Arabic versions. Boothroyd is of opinion that the wild Arabs may be intended.
The kings of Persia never admitted any into their presence without exacting this act of adoration, and it was the Persian custom which Alexander wished to introduce among the Macedonians. — Rollin’s Ancient History, volume 4, p. 288. This custom is still extant among the Turks. As soon as an ambassador sees the Sultan, he falls on his knees and kisses the ground.
מנחה, minchah, properly signifies a friendly offering; and אשכר, eshcar, a compensative present made on account of benefits received, — a gift which a person presents as a token of gratitude. — See Appendix.
Supposed to be in Arabia Felix. “The Septuagint reads, ‘The kings of the Arabs, and Sabaeans, shall bring gifts.’ So that anciently, perhaps, Sheba was the general name of Arabia; and Seba, or Sabaea, was that particular province of it called Arabia Felix, lying to the South, between the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea.” — Hewlett.
“Si d’un grand coeur il ne se presentoit pour les punir et en faire la vengence, et s’opposoit pour defendre ceux qu’on oppresse.” — Fr.
“C’est a dire, sans determiner quelque certaine personne.” — Fr. In the Hebrew, the three last verbs of the verse are in the singular number, in the future of kal active, and there is no nominative with which they agree. Calvin translates them literally: “Et dabit ei de auro Seba: et orabit pro eo semper, quotidie benedicit eum;” “And shall give to him of the gold of Sheba, and shall pray for him continually, daily shall bless him.” But, on the margin of the French version, he thus explains the construction: “C’est, on luy donnera, etc., on priera, etc., on benira.” “That is, the gold of Sheba shall be given to him, prayer shall be made for him continually, and daily shall he be blessed.”
“Ou, le Leban.” — Fr. marg. “Or, Lebanon.”
In the French version, the word semee, i.e., sown, is supplied.
The noun פסה, phissah, here translated handful, is found only in this passage. In explaining 1Ki 18:44, the Chaldee interpreter, for the Hebrew words rendered “as a man’s hand,” has כפסת יד, ke-phissath yad, which strictly signify, “as if a part of the hand.” On this authority several expositors, along with Calvin, have understood פסה, phissah, as signifying “a small quantity of corn,” as much as may lie on a man’s hand, or as he may hold within it. And some at the beginning of the verse supply the conditional particle אם, im, if But Rosenmüller thinks that “others with more propriety consider the noun פסה as having the same signification as פסיון, diffusio, uberitas, ‘spreading abroad, plenty,’ and as derived from the verb פסא, which, both in the Chaldee and in the Arabic, means expandit, diffudit se, ‘he spread abroad, he enlarged himself.’ The Syriac interpreter had, no doubt, this sense in view, when he rendered the words multitudinem frumenti, ‘an abundance of corn.’”
The word ציף, tsits, which Calvin renders shall go out, signifies to spring from, to spring up It is used, says Rosenmüller, with respect to plants or herbs when, sprouting from the seed, they make their appearance above ground in beauty and gracefulness, (Nu 17:8 .) It is used to denote also the reproduction of mankind in prosperous circumstances, (Isa 27:6.) From the noun מעיר, [from the city,] we are at no loss to supply the proper nominative to the preceding verb; q d., ex civitatibus singulis cives efflorescent, ‘from the cities severally, the citizens shall spring forth.’ The expression is somewhat similar to that in Ps 68:27, where the descendants of Israel are said to be from the fountain of Israel.” The extraordinary fertility and great increase of population here predicted took place in Palestine under the reign of Solomon, as is evident from 1Ki 4:20, where it is said, that in the time of Solomon “Judah and Israel were many as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry.” But this prophecy is destined to receive its fullest accomplishment under the reign of the Messiah.
“Filiabitur nomen ejus.” — Henry In the margin of our English Bibles it is, “He shall be as a son to continue his father’s name.” Bishop Patrick, therefore, paraphrases it, “His memory and fame shall never die, but be propagated from father to son, so long as the sun shall shine.” Rosenmüller reads, “Sobolescet nomen ejus, ‘his name shall increase,’ that is, shall be continued as long as the sun endureth; the government shall continue to his posterity in perpetual succession.” “The verb נון, nun,” he adds, “which occurs only in this passage, is explained from the noun נין, nin, Ge 21:23; Job 18:19; Isa 14:22. In these passages the word has obviously the meaning of offspring, and by the Chaldee interpreters, it is constantly rendered by the word בר, bar, falius, ‘a son.’ It may, therefore, be assumed with certainty, that the verb נון, nun, signifies sobolem procreare, ‘to procreate descendants.’ It may, however, be added, that the Alexandrine has here διαμενεῖ, a rendering in which both the Vulgate and Jerome concur: ‘perseverabit nomen ejus,’ ‘his name shall endure.” Dathe takes this last mentioned view. He supposes, that instead of ינון, yinnon, we should read יכון, yikon, stabilietur, — permanebit; “shall be established, — shall continue.” “The verb נון, nun,” says he, “is not met with either in the Hebrew or in the cognate tongues, and is explained, — merely by conjecture, — augescere — sobolescere, — ‘to increase or multiply,’ because, as a noun in some of the dialects, it signifies a fish In the Septuagint the word is rendered διαμενεῖ; in the Vulgate and by Jerome, perseverabit; in the Chaldee, praeparatum est; in the Syriac, existet nomen ejus All these, without doubt, read יכון, yikon, ‘prepared, — established, — fixed,’ — the word which we find in the parallel passage, Ps 89:38. The letters כ, caph, and נ, nun, it is evident, may very easily be interchanged from their similarity in form.”
“(Car c’est un verbe en la langue Hebraique qui vient du nom de Fils,) c’est a dire, sera perpetue de pere en fils.” — Fr.
This psalm concludes the second book of the Psalms, and this and the following verse are a doxology similar to that with which the first book and the other three are concluded. See volume 2, p. 126, note.