Psalms 118

PSALM CXVIII

A general exhortation to praise God for his mercy, 1-4.

The psalmist, by his own experience, encourages the people to

trust in God, and shows them the advantage of it, 5-9;

then describes his enemies, and shows how God enabled him to

destroy them, 10-13.

The people rejoice on the account, 15, 16.

He speaks again of the help he received from the Lord; and

desires admission into the temple, that he may enter and

praise the Lord, 17-19.

The gate is opened, 20.

He offers praise, 21.

The priests, &c., acknowledge the hand of the Lord in the

deliverance wrought, 22-24.

The psalmist prays for prosperity, 25.

The priest performs his office, blesses the people, and all

join in praise, 26, 27.

The psalmist expresses his confidence, 28.

The general doxology, or chorus, 29.

NOTES ON PSALM CXVIII

Most probably David was the author of this Psalm, though many

think it was written after the captivity. It partakes of David's

spirit, and every where shows the hand of a master. The style is

grand and noble; the subject, majestic.

Dr. Kennicott, who joins this and the hundred and seventeenth

Psalm together, considers the whole as a dialogue, and divides it

accordingly. The whole of the hundred and seventeenth he gives to

the psalmist as part the first, with the first four verses of

the hundred and eighteenth. The second part, which is from the

fifth verse to the twenty-first inclusive, he gives to the

Messiah. The third part, from the twenty-second verse to the

twenty-seventh, he gives to the chorus. And the fourth part, the

twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth verses, he gives to the psalmist.

Of the whole he has given an improved version.

Bishop Horsley is still different. He considers the hundred and

seventeenth Psalm as only the exordium of this. The whole poem, he

states, is a triumphant processional song. The scene passes at the

front gate of the temple. A conqueror with his train appears

before it; he demands admittance to return thanks for his

deliverance and final success, in an expedition of great

difficulty and danger. The conqueror and his train sing the

hundred and seventeenth Psalm, and the first four verses of the

hundred and eighteenth, as they advance to the gate of the

temple, in this manner.-The hundred and seventeenth Psalm, Chorus

of the whole procession. The first verse of the hundred and

eighteenth Psalm, A single voice. The second, Another single

voice. The third, A third single voice. The fourth, Chorus of

the whole procession. Arrived at the temple gate, the conqueror

alone sings the fifth, sixth, and seventh verses. The eighth

and ninth are sung by his train in chorus. The conqueror,

again alone, sings the tenth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, and

fourteenth verses. His train, in chorus, sing the fifteenth

and sixteenth. The conqueror alone sings the seventeenth,

eighteenth, and nineteenth verses. The twentieth is sung by the

priests and Levites within, in chorus. The twenty-fifth by

the conqueror alone within the gates. The twenty-sixth, by the

priests and Levites in chorus. The twenty-seventh, by the

conqueror's train in chorus. The twenty-eighth, by the

conqueror alone. The twenty-ninth, by the united chorus of

priests and Levites, and the conqueror's train, all within the

gates. "Now," the learned bishop adds, "the Jewish temple was a

type of heaven; the priests within represent the angelic host

attending round the throne of God in heaven; the Conqueror is

Messiah; and his train, the redeemed." On this distribution the

bishop has given a new version. The simple distribution into

parts, which I have given in the contents, is, in my opinion, the

best. Ingenious as Dr. Kennicott and Bishop Horsley are, they seem

to me too mechanical. This is the last of those Psalms which form

the great hallel, which the Jews sung at the end of the passover.

Verse 2. Let Israel now say] Seeing the hand of the Lord so

visibly, and the deliverance gained, that God's mercy endureth for

ever.

Verse 3. The house of Aaron] The priesthood is still preserved,

and the temple worship restored.

Verse 4. That fear the Lord] All sincere penitents and genuine

believers. See the notes on Ps 115:9-11.

Verse 5. I called upon the Lord] I am a standing proof and

living witness of God's mercy. Take encouragement from me.

Verse 7. The Lord taketh my part with them that help me]

Literally, The Lord is to me among my helpers. Therefore shall I

see my desire upon them that hate me. Literally, And I shall look

among them that hate me. As God is on my side, I fear not to look

the whole of them in the face. I shall see them defeated.

Verse 8. Better to trust in the Lord] Man is feeble, ignorant,

fickle, and capricious; it is better to trust in Jehovah than in

such.

Verse 9. In princes.] Men of high estate are generally proud,

vain-glorious, self-confident, and rash: it is better to trust in

God than in them. Often they cannot deliver, and often they will

not when they can. However, in the concerns of our salvation, and

in matters which belong to Providence, they can do nothing.

Verse 10. All nations compassed me about] This is by some

supposed to relate to David, at the commencement of his reign,

when all the neighbouring Philistine nations endeavoured to

prevent him from establishing himself in the kingdom. Others

suppose it may refer to the Samaritans, Idumeans, Ammonites, and

others, who endeavoured to prevent the Jews from rebuilding their

city and their temple after their return from captivity in

Babylon.

But in the name of the Lord will I destroy them.] Dr. Kennicott

renders amilam, "I shall disappoint them;" Bishop

Horsley, "I cut them to pieces;" Mr. N. Berlin, repuli eas, "I

have repelled them." "I will cut them off;" Chaldee. Ultus sum

in eos, "I am avenged on them;" Vulgate. So the Septuagint.

Verse 12. They compassed me about like bees; they are quenched

as the fire of thorns] I shall refer to Dr. Delaney's note on this

passage. The reader has here in miniature two of the finest images

in Homer; which, if his curiosity demands to be gratified, he will

find illustrated and enlarged, Iliad ii., ver. 86.

---------------επεσσευοντοδελαοι

ηυτεεθνεαεισιμελισσαωναδιναων

πετρηςεκγλαφυρηςαιεινεονερχομεναων

βοτρυδονδεπετονταιεπανθεσινειαρινοισιν

αιμεντενθααλιςπεποτηαταιαιδετεανθα

ωςτωνεθνεαπολλανεωναποκαικλισιαων

ηιονοςπροπαροιθεβαθειηςεστιχοωντο

ιλαδονειςαγορην

----------------The following host,

Poured forth by thousands, darkens all the coast.

As from some rocky cleft the shepherd sees,

Clustering in heaps on heaps, the driving bees,

Rolling and blackening, swarms succeeding swarms,

With deeper murmurs and more hoarse alarms:

Dusky they spread a close embodied crowd,

And o'er the vale descends the living cloud;

So from the tents and ships a lengthening train

Spreads all the beach, and wide o'ershades the plain;

Along the region runs a deafening sound;

Beneath their footsteps groans the trembling ground.

POPE

The other image, the fire consuming the thorns, we find in the

same book, ver. 455:-

ηυτεπυραιδηλονεπιφλεγειασπετονυλην

ουρεοςενκορυφηςεκαθενδετεφαινεταιαυγη

ωςτωνερχομενωναποχαλκουθεσπεσιοιο

αιγληπαμφανοωσαδιαιθεροςουρανονικεν

As on some mountain, through the lofty grove,

The crackling flames ascend and blaze above;

The fires expanding, as the winds arise,

Shoot their long beams, and kindle half the skies;

So, from the polished arms, and brazen shields,

A gleamy splendour flashed along the fields.

POPE.

The arms resembling a gleaming fire is common both to the

psalmist and Homer; but the idea of that fire being quenched when

the army was conquered, is peculiar to the psalmist.

Verse 13. Thou hast thrust sore at me] In pushing thou hast

pushed me that I might fall.

But the Lord helped me.] Though he possessed skill, courage, and

strength, yet these could not have prevailed had not God been his

helper; and to him he gives the glory of the victory.

Verse 15. The voice of rejoicing] Formerly there was nothing but

wailings; but now there is universal joy because of the

salvation-the deliverance, which God has wrought for us.

Verse 16. The right hand of the Lord is exalted] Jehovah lifted

up his right hand, and with it performed prodigies of power.

Verse 17. I shall not die] I was nigh unto death; but I am

preserved,-preserved to publish the wondrous works of the Lord.

Verse 19. Open to me the gates] Throw open the doors of the

temple, that I may enter and perform my vows unto the Lord.

Verse 20. This gate of the Lord] Supposed to be the answer of

the Levites to the request of the king.

Verse 21. I will praise thee] He is now got within the gates,

and breaks out into thanksgivings for the mercies he had received.

He is become my salvation-he himself hath saved me from all mine

enemies.

Verse 22. - 23. The stone which the builders refused] See a full

elucidation of these two verses in Clarke's notes on "Mt 21:42".

Verse 23. See Clarke on Ps 118:22.

Verse 24. This is the day which the Lord hath made] As the

Lord hath called me to triumph, this is the day which he hath

appointed for that purpose. This is a gracious opportunity; I will

improve it to his glory.

Verse 25. Save now, I beseech thee] These words were sung by the

Jews on the feast of tabernacles, when carrying green branches in

their hands; and from the hoshiah nna, we have the word

hosanna. This was sung by the Jewish children when Christ made

his public entry into Jerusalem. See Mt 21:9, and see the note

there, See Clarke on Mt 21:9, in which the word and the circumstance

are both explained.

Verse 26. We have blessed you] The answer of the Levities to the

king.

Verse 27. God is the Lord] Rather El Yehovah, the

strong God Jehovah.

Which hath showed us light] vaiyaer lanu, "And he

will illuminate us." Perhaps at this time a Divine splendour shone

upon the whole procession; a proof of God's approbation.

Bind the sacrifice with cords] The Chaldee paraphrases this

verse thus: "Samuel the prophet said, Bind the little one with

chains for a solemn sacrifice, until ye have sacrificed him and

sprinkled his blood on the horns of the altar." It is supposed

that the words refer to the feast of tabernacles, and chag here

means the festival victim. Several translate the original "keep

the festival with thick boughs of the horns of the altar." In this

sense the Vulgate and Septuagint understood the passage. David in

this entry into the temple was a type of our blessed Lord, who

made a similar entry, as related Mt 21:8-10.

Verse 29. O give thanks unto the Lord] This is the general

doxology or chorus. All join in thanksgiving, and they end as they

began: "His mercy endureth for ever." It began at the creation of

man; it will continue till the earth is burnt up.

ANALYSIS OF THE HUNDRED AND EIGHTEENTH PSALM

The parts of this Psalm are the following:-

I. An exhortation to praise God for his mercy, Ps 118:1-5.

II. A persuasion to trust in God, and that from the psalmist's

own example, who called upon God, and was delivered from trouble,

Ps 118:5-14.

III. The exultation of the Church for it, Ps 118:15-18.

IV. A solemn thanksgiving kept for it, and in what manner it was

celebrated, Ps 118:19-27.

V. A short doxology.

1. The psalmist invites all to praise God: "O give thanks," &c.,

and adds his reasons:-

1. "For he is good." How briefly and powerfully spoken! He is

absolutely good.

2. "He is good, and ever good." To us he is a merciful God,

which flows from his goodness; his mercy created, redeemed,

protects, and will crown us. Thus his mercy extends especially to

his people; therefore,-

1. "Let Israel now say," &c. The whole nation.

2. "Let the house of Aaron," &c. That whole consecrated tribe.

3. "Let them now that fear the Lord," &c. Proselytes, &c.

II. And thus, having given a general recommendation of his

mercy, he descends to instance in what it consists; that is, God's

great deliverance of him.

1. "I was in distress," &c. A frequent case with God's people,

as well as with David.

2. "I called upon the lord," &c. I fled to him, not trusting in

myself, and found mercy.

3. "The Lord answered me, and set me in a large place." This was

the issue.

Upon which experience the psalmist exults, and attributes it to

God's mercy.

1. "The Lord is my helper," &c. The Lord is for me, therefore I

shall not suffer.

2. "The Lord takes my part," &c. I shall be in safety, while my

enemies will be cast down, and the Church freed.

From which he deduces a third inference:-

1, "It is better to trust in the Lord," &c. He is both able and

willing to help.

2. "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in

princes." David found this in the case of Achish, king of Gath.

In a song of triumph he acquaints us in what dangers he was, and

from which God delivered him. It is good then to trust in the

Lord.

1. "All nations compassed me about," &c., but to no purpose.

2. "They compassed me about; yea, they compassed me about," &c.

3. "They compassed me about like bees," &c. Angry, and armed

with stings; but my trust is alone in the Lord. In his name, and

by his help, "I will destroy them."

He told us of a multitude of enemies; and for the overthrow of

these he sang his triumph.

1. "Thou hast thrust sore at me," &c. I was in great danger;

there was little hope of escape.

2. "But the Lord helped me." No help was in myself, but the

Lord.

In the next verse he fully acknowledges the Lord as his

strength.

1. "My strength." By which I resist my enemies.

2. "My salvation." To deliver me from my enemies.

3. "My song." Him whom I joyfully sing after my deliverance.

III. And that this song might be fuller, he calls for the whole

choir to sing with him. His delivery concerned the whole Church,

and therefore it must be sung by the whole Church; and so it was

kept as a jubilee, a day of thanksgiving.

1. "The voice of rejoicing," &c. They congratulate their own

safety in mine.

2. "The right hand of the Lord," &c. This anthem the whole choir

sang.

Now this anthem was no sooner ended by the choir, than the

psalmist took his harp again; and, exulting over his enemies,

sings, "I shall not die," &c. Not be heart-broken, but "declare

the works of the Lord."

And among his works this is one:-

1. "The Lord hath chastened me sore," &c. Within have I

struggled hard with sin; without have I been assaulted with bitter

enemies.

2. "But he hath not given me over," &c. I acknowledge in this

his fatherly affection.

IV. It is supposed that this Psalm was composed by David, in

order that it might be sung when the people and the priests were

assembled before the Lord, for the purpose of thanksgiving; we

may, with Junius, form it into a dialogue.

1. David speaks of the priests and Levites who had the care of

the tabernacle: "Open to me the gates," &c., that is, the Lord's

house; "for I will go in to them," &c.

2. To this the priests reply, "This is the gate," &c. The sole

gate of justice that leads to him.

David replies, showing in brief his reason: "I will praise

thee," &c.; and to the twenty-eighth verse, he shows how God had

settled him in his kingdom, making him "the head of the corner;"

which words, though they refer to David, there is no doubt of

their having reference also to Christ, of whom David was a type;

and of Christ then I shall rather interpret them.

"The stone which the builders refused," &c.

1. The Church is sometimes in Scripture called a building; the

saints are the living stones, and Christ is "the chief

Corner-stone."

2. But the Jews, the priests, to whom belonged the office of

building the Church, refused this stone: "We will not have this

man," &c.

3. But "he is become the head of the corner." And whoever is not

connected with him cannot be saved. 1. "This was the Lord's

doing," &c. That Christ became our salvation. 2. "And it is

marvellous in our eyes." And so it ever must be, that Christ

should die, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.

In commemoration of so great a work, a day should be set apart.

1. "This is the day," &c. Which without doubt was the day of the

resurrection; the Lord making it a high and holy day.

2. "We will be glad and rejoice," &c. Adam's fall was a doleful

day. On the day of Christ's resurrection we will be glad.

3. In the midst of our rejoicing we will pray, and sound forth

Hosanna to the Son of David. This was done by the people on the

entering of Christ into Jerusalem. It was the opinion of the Jews

that this form of acclamation would be used before the Messiah.

The whole prophecy of Christ's coming, riding into Jerusalem in

triumph, rejection, passion, &c., being thus explained, the

prophet puts this into the mouths of the priests:-

"We have blessed you." All true happiness is under this King.

2. "Out of the house of the Lord," &c. From out of the Church.

3. "God is the Lord," &c. Revealed unto us his Son as the Light

of the world.

4. "Bind the sacrifice with cords," &c. Be thankful to him, and

meet in the Church to celebrate your thanksgivings.

V. The prophet concludes with a doxology.

1. "Thou art my God," I have taken thee for my portion.

2. "And I will praise thee;" which he doubles: "Thou art my God,

and I will exalt thee." Which repetition shows his ardent desire

of evincing his gratitude.

And thus the psalmist concludes with the same exhortation with

which he began the Psalm.

"O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good; for his mercy

endureth for ever." And let him that readeth, and him that

heareth, say, Amen!

THIS is an uncommonly fine Psalm, and among the many noble ones

it is one of the most noble. Its beauties are so many and so

prominent that every reader, whose mind is at all influenced by

spiritual things, must see, feel, and admire them.

The 22nd verse, "The stone which the builders rejected is become

the head stone of the corner," must have been a proverbial

expression; but what gave birth to it I cannot find; but, like all

other proverbs, it doubtless had its origin from some fact. One

thing is evident from the Jewish doctors. The most enlightened of

them understand this as a prophecy of the Messiah; and it was this

general opinion, as well as the knowledge that the Spirit of

prophecy thus intended it, that caused our Lord to apply it to

himself, Mt 21:42; nor did any of them attempt to dispute the

propriety of the application.

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