Psalms 60


The psalmist complains of the desolation which had fallen on

the land; prays for deliverance, 1-5;

and promises himself victory over Shechem, Succoth, Gilead,

Ephraim, Moab, Idumea, and the Philistines, by the special

help and assistance of God, 6-12.


The title, "To the chief Musician upon the hexachord, or lily of

the testimony, a golden Psalm of David, for instruction; when he

strove with Aram Naharaim, Syria of the two rivers (Mesopotamia)

and Aram-Zobah, Syria of the watchmen, (Coelosyria,) when Joab

returned, and smote twelve thousand Edomites in the Valley of

Salt." I have only to remark here that there is nothing in the

contents of this Psalm that bears any relation to this title.

According to the title it should be a song of victory and triumph;

instead of which the first part of it is a tissue of complaints of

disaster and defeat, caused by the Divine desertion. Besides, it

was not Joab that slew twelve thousand men in the Valley of Salt;

it was Abishai, the brother of Joab; and the number twelve

thousand here is not correct; for there were eighteen thousand

slain in that battle, as we learn from 1Ch 18:12. The

valley of salt or salt pits is in Idumea. To reconcile the

difference between the numbers, various expedients have been hit

on; but still the insuperable objection remains; the contents of

this Psalm and this title are in opposition to each other. That

the Psalm deplores a defeat, is evident from the three first and

two last verses. And the Targumist seems to have viewed it in this

light, perhaps the proper one, by expressing the title thus: "To

give praise for the ancient testimony, ( sahadutha,) of the

sons of Jacob and Laban, (see Ge 31:47,) an exemplar by the hand

of David, to give instruction when he gathered together the

people, and passed by the heap of testimony, ( ayegar

sahadutha,) and set the battle in array against Aram, which is by

the Euphrates; and against Aram, which is by Izobah. And after

this Joab returned and smote the Idumeans in the Valley of Salt;

and of the armies of David and Joab there fell twelve thousand

men." The Psalm, therefore, seems to deplore this disastrous

event; for although they had the victory at last, twelve thousand

of the troops of Israel were justly considered too great a

sacrifice for such a conquest, and a proof that God had not

afforded them that succour which they had long been in the habit

of receiving. The latter part of the Psalm seems to be intended to

put God in remembrance of his ancient promise of putting Israel in

possession of the whole land by driving out the ancient iniquitous

inhabitants. Others consider the Psalm as descriptive of the

distracted state of the land after the fatal battle of Gilboa,

till David was anointed king of the whole at Hebron.

This is the last of the six Psalms to which michtam is

prefixed; the others are Psa. xvi., lvi., lvii., lviii., and lix.

I have said something relative to this word in the introduction to

Ps 16:1, but some

observations of Mr. Harmer lead me to consider the subject more

at large. It is well known that there were seven most eminent

Arabic poets who flourished before and at the commencement of the

career of Mohammed: their names were Amriolkais, Amru, Hareth,

Tharafah, Zohair, Lebeid, and Antarah. These poets produced each a

poem, which because of its excellence was deemed worthy to be

suspended on the walls of the temple of Mecca; and hence the

collection of the seven poems was termed Al Moallakat, The

Suspended; and Al Modhahebat, The Gilded or Golden, because they

were written in letters of gold upon the Egyptian papyrus. The six

michtams of David might have this title for the same reason; they

might have been written in letters of gold, or on gilded vellum,

or the Egyptian papyrus; for the word michtam is generally

supposed to signify golden, and kethem is used to signify

gold, probably stamped or engraven with figures or letters.

That the Moallakat were written in this way, there can be no

question; and that the works of men of great eminence in Asiatic

countries are still thus written, my own library affords ample

evidence. Copies of the following works are written on paper all

powdered with gold, with gold borders, and highly illuminated

anwans or titles: The MISNAVI of Jelaluddeen Raumy; The DEEVAN of

Zuheer Faryabi; The HADIKATUSANI, or Garden of Praise; The


Shahy, with many more, all works of eminent authors, written in

the finest manner, ruled with gold borders, &c.

Copies of the Koran are often done in the same manner: one in

12mo., so thickly powdered over with gold that the ground on which

the text is written appears to be almost totally gilded; another

large octavo, all powdered with gold, and golden flowers down

every margin; another small octavo, that might be almost called

the Codex Aureus, with rich golden borders on every page. And,

lastly, one in large folio, which besides superbly illuminated

anwans, has three gold lines to every page; one at the top, one

in the middle, and one at the bottom. To the above may be added a

small folio, that opens out about eleven feet, every page of which

is like a plate of solid gold, with the characters engraven on it.

It is a collection of elegant extracts. Another of the same kind,

large folio, opens out sixty-two feet, on which every page is

finished in the same manner, with a vast variety of borders,

sprigs, and flowers. And to close the whole, a copy of the Borda,

supposed to be the most elegant MS. in Europe, entirely covered

with gold flowers and lines, the writing the most perfect I ever

saw; so that of this MS. it might be truly said, splendid as it

is, materiam superabit opus.

As Mr. Harmer has alluded to accounts which he has collected

from other writers in order to illustrate the michtams of David, I

have above produced a number of evidences to bear witness to the

fact that such is and such was the custom in the east, to write

the works of the most eminent authors in letters of gold, or on a

page highly ornamented with the utmost profusion of golden lines,

figures, flowers, &c. In this way these Psalms might have been

written, and from this circumstance they may have derived their

name. I may just add, that I think these titles were made long

after the Psalms were composed.

Verse 1. O God, thou hast cast us off] Instead of being our

general in the battle, thou hast left us to ourselves; and then

there was only the arm of flesh against the arm of flesh, numbers

and physical power were left to decide the contest. We have been

scattered, our ranks have been broken before the enemy, and thou

hast caused the whole land to tremble at our bad success; the

people are become divided and seditious. "Thou hast made the land

to tremble, even the breaches of it, for it shaketh, it is all in

commotion," Ps 60:2.

Verse 3. Thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment] We

reel as drunken men; we are giddy, like those who have drank too

much wine; but our giddiness has been occasioned by the

astonishment and dismay that have taken place in consequence of

the prevalence of our enemies, and the unsettled state of the

land. It has been remarked that the three first verses of this

Psalm do not agree with the rest, and it also appears that the

three first verses of Ps 85:1-3 do not agree with the rest of

that Psalm. But let them change places, and the three first

verses of this be set instead of the three first verses of

Ps 85:1-3, and let those be placed here instead of these, and

then the whole of each Psalm will be consistent. This was first

suggested by Bishop Hare, and the supposition seems to be well

founded. Some imagine that the whole of the Psalm refers to the

distracted state of the land after the death of Saul till the time

that David was anointed king over all Israel, at Hebron; others,

to the disastrous war with the Syrians. See before.

Verse 4. Thou hast given a banner] nes, a sign,

something that was capable of being fixed on a pole.

That it may be displayed] lehithnoses, that it may be


Because of the truth.] mippeney koshet, from the face

of truth; which has been thus paraphrased: If we have displayed

the ensign of Israel, and gone forth against these our enemies,

who have now made such a terrible breach among us, (Ps 60:1-3,)

it was because of thy truth-the promises of victory which we

supposed would attend us at all times.

Mr. Mudge, thus: "Thou givest to them that fear thee a signal to

be displayed before the truth. That thy favoured ones may be

delivered, clothe thy right arm with victory, and answer us. God

speaketh in his sanctuary, I will exult; I shall portion out

Shechem, and measure the valley of Succoth." The fourth verse

seems to mean that God had appointed for the consolation of his

people a certain signal of favour, with which therefore he prays

him to answer them. This, accordingly, he does. God speaketh in

his sanctuary, called debir or oracle for that very

reason. What he desires then, as he stands imploring the mercy of

God before the oracle, is, that he may see the usual signal of

favour proceed from it; a voice, perhaps joined with some luminous

emanations, whence the phrase of the light of God's countenance.

The expression in the sixth verse seems to be proverbial, and

means, "I shall divide the spoils of my enemies with as much ease

as the sons of Jacob portioned out Shechem, and measured out for

their tents the valley of Succoth." Mr. Harmer gives a very

ingenious illustration of the giving the banner. "Albertus

Aquensis informs us that when Jerusalem was taken in 1099 by the

crusaders, about three hundred Saracens got on the roof of a very

high building, and earnestly begged for quarter; but could not be

induced by any promises of safety to come down, till they had

received the banner of Tanered, one of the crusade generals, as a

pledge of life. The event showed the faithlessness of these

zealots, they put the whole to the sword. But the Saracens

surrendering themselves upon the delivering of a standard to them,

proves in how strong a light they looked upon the giving a banner,

since it induced them to trust it, when they would not trust any

promises. Perhaps the delivery of a banner was anciently esteemed

in like manner an obligation to protect; and the psalmist might

here consider it in this light when he says, Thou hast shown thy

people hard things; but thou hast given a banner to them that fear

thee. Though thou didst for a time give up thy Israel into the

hands of their enemies, thou hast now given them an assurance of

thy having received them under thy protection. Thus God gave them

a banner or standard that it might be displayed, or lifted up; or

rather, that they may lift up a banner to themselves, or encourage

themselves with the confident persuasion that they are under the

protection of God: because of the truth-the word of promise, which

is an assurance of protection-like the giving me and my people a

banner, the surest of pledges."-Harmer's Observations. See at the

end of the chapter. See Clarke on Ps 60:12.

Verse 6. God hath spoken] Judah shall not only be re-established

in Jerusalem, but shall possess Samaria, where Shechem is, and the

country beyond Jordan, in which is situated the valley of Succoth.

Dividing and meting out signify possession.

Verse 7. Gilead is mine] This country was also beyond Jordan,

and Manasseh and Ephraim are put for the tribes that formed the

kingdom of Israel. All these, after the return from the captivity,

formed but one people, the Jews and Israelites being united.

The strength of mine head] It shall be the principal support of

the new-found kingdom, when all distinctions shall be buried.

Judah is my lawgiver] This tribe was chief of all those who

returned from the captivity; and Zerubbabel, who was their leader,

was chief of that tribe, and of the family of David. As this part

of the Psalm appears to relate to the return of the captives from

Babylon, and their repossession of their own land, the psalmist

may refer, not only to the promises of their restoration, but also

to the principal person under whose superintendence they returned.

Verse 8. Moab is my washpot] The Moabites shall be reduced to

the meanest slavery.

Over Edom will I cast out my shoe] I will make a complete

conquest of Idumea, and subject the Edomites to the meanest

offices, as well as the Moabites.

Philistia, triumph thou because of me.] John Hyrcanus subdued

the Idumeans, and caused them to receive circumcision, and profess

the Jewish religion. The words here seem to predict their entire


In an essay for a new translation of the Bible, there is what

appears to me a correct paraphrase of the seventh and eighth

verses: "Gilead and Manasseh have submitted unto me; Ephraim

furnishes me with valiant men, and Judah with men of prudence and

wisdom. I will reduce the Moabites to servitude; I will triumph

over the Edomites, and make them my slaves; and the Philistines

shall add to my triumph."

Verse 9. Who will bring me into the strong city?] If this part

of the Psalm, from the sixth to the twelfth verse, refer to the

return of the captives from Babylon, as I think probable; then the

strong city may mean either Petra, the capital of Idumea; Bozra,

in Arabia, near the mountains of Gilead; Rabba, the capital of the

Ammonites; or Tyre, according to the Chaldee, the capital of

Phoenicia; or Jerusalem itself, which, although dismantled, had

long been one of the strongest cities of the east. Or it may

imply, Who shall give me the dominion over the countries already

mentioned? who will lead me into Edom? who will give me the

dominion over that people?

Verse 10. Wilt not thou, O God] It is God alone from whom we can

expect our enlargement. He who has cast us off, and has abandoned

us in battle; it is that very God alone from whom we expect

complete enlargement, the repossession of our own land, and the

subduction of the surrounding nations; and we expect this, because

he has graciously promised these mercies.

Verse 11. Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of

man.] We have done all we can do, and have trusted too much in

ourselves; now, Lord, undertake for us.

Verse 12. Through God we shall do valiantly] Through thee alone

shall we do valiantly; thou alone canst tread down our enemies;

and to thee alone we look for conquest.

THE author to whom Harmer refers in the note on the fourth

verse, is one of the writers in a work entitled Gesta dei per

Francos, fol. Hanoviae, 1611, 2 vols. And the places quoted by

Harmer may be found in vol. i., p. 282; and as the passage is

singular, and a good use has been made of it for the illustration

of a difficult passage, I shall lay the words of the original

before the reader: "Proxima ab hinc die sabbati clarescente,

quidam Sarracenorum spe vitae in summitatem tecti domus praecelsae

Solomonis ab armis elapsi, circiter trecenti, confugerant. Qui

multa prece pro vita flagitantes, in mortis articulo positi,

nullius fiducia aut promissione audebant descendere, quousque

vexillum Tankradi in signum protectionis vivendi susceperunt. Sed

minime misellis profuit. Nam plurimis super hoc indignantibus, et

Christianis furore commotis, ne unus quidem illorum evasit."

It is very properly added by Albertus, that the noble spirit of

Tancred was filled with indignation at this most horrible breach

of faith; and he was about to take a summary revenge on the

instigators and perpetrators of this unprincipled butchery, when

the chiefs interposed, and not only maintained the expediency of

the massacre that had already been committed, but the necessity of

putting all the inhabitants to the sword. On this the savage

fiends, called Christians, flew to arms, and made a universal

slaughter of all that remained of the inhabitants. They drew out

the prisoners, chopped off their heads, stabbed all they met with

in the streets, and-but I can translate no farther; it is too

horrible. I shall give my author's words, who was an ecclesiastic,

and wrote down the account from eye-witnesses: "Concilio hoc

accepto, (the determination of the chiefs to put all to the

sword,) tertio die post victoriam egressa est sententia a

majoribus: et ecce universi arma rapiunt, et miserabili caede in

omne vulgus Gentilium, quod adhuc erat residuum, exsurgunt, alios

producentes e vinculis et decollantes: alios per vicos et plateas

civitatis inventos trucidantes, quibus antea causa pecuniae, aut

humana pietate pepercerunt. Puellas vero, mulieres, matronas

nobiles, et faetas cum puellis tenellis detruncabant, aut

lapidibus obruebant, in nullis aliquam considerantes aetatem. E

contra, puellae, mulieres, matronae, metu momentaneae mortis

angustiatae et horrore gravissimae necis concussae Christianos in

jugulum utriusque sexus debacchantes ac saevientes, medios pro

liberanda vita amplexabantur, quaedam pedibus eorum advolvebantur,

de vita et salute sua illos nimium miserando fletu et ejulatu

solicitantes. Pueri vero quinquennes aut triennes matrum patrumque

crudelem casum intuentes, una miserum clamorem et fletum

multiplicabant. Sed frustra haec pietatis et misericordiae signa

fiebant: nam Christiani sic neci totum laxaverunt animum, ut non

lugens masculus aut faemina, nedum infans unius anni vivens, manum

percussoris evaderet. Unde plateae totius civitatis Jerusalem

corporibus extinctis virorum et mulierum, lacerisque membris

infantium, adeo stratae et opertae fuisse referuntur, ut non solum

in vicis, soliis et palatiis, sed etiam in locis desertae

solitudinis copia occisorum reperiretur innumerabilis." GESTA DEI

Vol. I., p. 283.

This is one specimen of the spirit of the crusaders, and is it

any wonder that God did not shine on such villanous measures! No

wonder that the Mohammedans have so long hated the name of

Christian, when they had no other specimen of Christianity than

what the conduct of these ferocious brutes exhibited; and these

were called Gesta Dei, the transactions of God!

There are many difficulties in this Psalm; whether they are in

general removed by the preceding notes, the reader must judge. The

following analysis is constructed on the supposition that the

Psalm speaks of the distracted state of the kingdom from the fatal

battle of Gilboa, in which Saul fell, to the death of Ishbosheth,

when the whole kingdom was united under David.


Before David's time, and in the beginning of his reign, Israel

was in a distressed condition; he composed and quieted the whole.

Edom only was not vanquished. In this Psalm he gives thanks for

his victories, and prays for assistance for the conquest of Edom.

There are three general parts in this Psalm:-

I. A commemoration of the former lamentably distracted condition

of the Israelites, Ps 60:1-3.

II. The condition of it under his reign much better, Ps 60:4-9.

III. His thankfulness in ascribing all his victories to God,

Ps 60:9-12.

I. In the first he shows that God was angry with Israel. On

which he laments the effects of his anger. 2. And then prays for

the aversion: 1. "O Lord, thou hast (or hadst) cast us off." 2.

"Thou hast scattered us abroad; thou hast been displeased." 3.

"Thou hast made the earth to tremble." 4. "Thou hast broken it."

5. "Thou hast showed thy people hard things." 6. "Thou hast given

us to drink the wine of astonishment." Every syllable of which

congeries will appear to be most true when we examine the

history of the Israelites before Saul's reign, under his

government, and upon his death; and the first entrance of David

upon his reign; his wars with the house of Saul, until Ish-bosheth

was taken out of the way.

All which wars, civil and external, with the calamities that

flowed from them, he imputes to God's anger: "Thou hast been

displeased," Ps 60:1.

2. And upon it he prays: "O turn thee to us again." Let us again

enjoy thy countenance. 2. "Heal the breaches of the land." Close

the wounds made by these contentions: they were not closed; for it

adds, "It shaketh."

II. And now the condition of it was much better; all being

brought under one king, and he victorious over his foreign


1. "Thou hast now given a banner to them that fear thee." All

Israel-all those that are thy servants, are brought to acknowledge

thee, and fight under one standard; in effect, have received me as

their sole king, their factions and parties being quieted.

2. "That it may be displayed." Set up, that Israel may know

under whom to fight, and whose part to take.

3. "Because of thy truth." Who by this hast made it appear that

it was no fiction nor ambition of mine to set up this standard;

but a truth that I was by Samuel, by thy special appointment,

anointed to be king; and I am now invested with the crown for the

performance of thy truth and promise.

4. And the end is especially, that I should bring deliverance to

thy servants: it was that "thy beloved may be delivered." That the

godly and good men, and those that fear thee, living hitherto

oppressed, and in these distractions kept low, might be delivered.

5. Which, that it may be done, he inserts a short ejaculation

for himself and them: "Save with thy right hand, and hear thou

me." And now he begins to commemorate the particulars that God had

done for him, and the several victories he had obtained; also, in

what manner he ruled this people. All which he prefaces with this


"God hath spoken in his holiness." He certainly and truly hath

promised to save us: "I will be glad and rejoice in it." With much

joy and gladness I will enter upon the kingdom, being confirmed by

his promise, which I will administer in a different manner; my

government shall be paternal to the Israelites, which are his

people; but more severe to the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and

Syrians, because they are aliens to the commonwealth of Israel.

1. "I will divide Shechem, and mete out the valley of Succoth."

I will bring under my power those places of Israel; and, as a true

lord of them, I will divide and measure out what portions I shall

think fit to the inhabitants.

2. "Gilead also is mine, and Manasseh is mine." The Israelites

that followed the house of Saul are come into my power, and I will

divide and apportion them also. Yet, as being mine, I will deal

mildly with them.

3. Of Ephraim I shall make reckoning. Ephraim "shall be the

strength of my head." As this tribe had more men than any other,

so they were great soldiers; and these he esteemed as his


4. "Judah is my lawgiver." His chief counsel were of this tribe,

in whom, with himself, was the legislative power, according to the

prophecy of Jacob: "The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a

lawgiver from between his feet, till Shiloh come." And thus,

having showed his kingdom, and the administration over the

Israelites, he passes to the strangers whom he had conquered, over

whom he would carry a severe hand, putting them into a slavish

subjection, and to base offices.

1. "Moab is my washpot." A servant to hold the bason, and to

wash my feet.

2. "Over Edom I will cast my shoe." Trample on their necks.

3. "Philistia, triumph thou because of me:" which is either

spoken ironically, as if he would say: "O Philistine, whom I have

subdued, go, go triumph because I have conquered thee." Or else,

"Triumph thou in the triumph I shall celebrate for my conquest;

bear among the rest thy part, though unwillingly. Follow the train

with acclamations, and proclaim me thy king."

III. After the enumerations of his victories, and form of

government, that no man should take this for a vain boast of his

own strength, he thankfully ascribes all the glory to God, both of

which he had done, and what he was yet to do. One people he had

yet to conquer; and that could not be done except that God, who

had hitherto gone out with his armies, would again vouchsafe to

lead them; and, therefore, he asks,-

1. "Who will bring me into the strong city? who will lead me

into Edom?" No question, had Joab, Abishai, &c., or any of his

worthies, been by, they would have striven who should have

performed this service. Every one would have said, "I will be the


2. But he prevents them all; and returns this answer to himself,

that none but God should do it, and that he was persuaded that he

would do it; even that God who was formerly displeased with them,

had cast them off, but was now reconciled: "Wilt not thou, O God,

lead us into the strong city which hadst cast us off? and thou, O

God, bring us into Edom, which didst not go forth with our


3. And to that purpose he prays, "Give us help from trouble."

And he adds his reason, that nothing can be well done without

God's assistance; for the strength, power, prudence, and skill of

man, without God, are to little purpose: "Vain is the help of


And he concludes all with this epiphonema: "In God we shall do

great or valiant acts; for he it is that shall tread down our

enemies." In war these two must be joined, and indeed in all

actions. HE, we; GOD and man.

1. "We shall do valiantly," for God helps not remiss, or

cowardly, or negligent men.

2. And yet, that being done, the work is his: "He shall tread

down;" the blow and overthrow are not to be attributed to us, but

to HIM.

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