Psalms 65

PSALM LXV

God is praised for the fulfilment of his promises, and for his

mercy in forgiving sins, 1-,3.

He is praised for the wonders that he works in nature, which

all mankind must acknowledge, 4-8;

for the fertilizing showers which he sends upon the earth, and

the abundance thereby produced both for men and cattle, 9-13.

NOTES ON PSALM LXV

The title, "To the chief Musician or conqueror, a Psalm and Song

of David." So the Hebrew; and, in effect, the Chaldee, AEthiopic,

and best copies of the Septuagint. The Arabic has, "A Psalm of

David concerning the transmigration of the people."

The Vulgate is singular: "A Psalm of David. A hymn of Jeremiah

and Ezekiel for the people of the transmigration, when they began

to go out," from Babylon, understood. This title is of no

authority; it neither accords with the subject of the Psalm, nor

with the truth of history. Calmet has very properly remarked that

Jeremiah and Ezekiel were never found together, to compose this

Psalm, neither before, at, nor after the captivity. It should

therefore be utterly rejected. In the Complutensian edition Haggai

is added to Jeremiah and Ezekiel, all with equal propriety.

It is supposed to have been written after a great drought, when

God had sent a plentiful rain on the land. I rather think that

there was no direct drought or rain in the prophet's view, but a

celebration of the praises of God for his giving rain and fruitful

seasons, and filling men's mouths with food, and their hearts with

gladness. There is a particular providence manifested in the

quantity of rain that falls upon the earth, which can neither be

too much admired nor praised.

Verse 1. Praise waiteth for thee] Praise is silent or dumb for

thee. Thou alone art worthy of praise; all other perfections are

lost in thine; and he who considers thee aright can have no other

subject of adoration.

Unto thee shall the vow be performed.] All offerings and

sacrifices should be made to thee. All human spirits are under

obligation to live to and serve thee. All Jews and Christians, by

circumcision and baptism, belong to thee; and they are all bound

to pay the vow of their respective covenants to thee alone; and

the spirit of this vow is, to love thee with all their powers and

to serve thee with a perfect heart and willing mind, all the days

of their life.

Verse 2. Unto thee shall all flesh come.] All human beings

should pray to God; and from him alone the sufficient portion of

human spirits is to be derived. It is supposed to be a prediction

of the calling of the Gentiles to the faith of the Gospel of

Christ. A minister, immensely corpulent, began his address to God

in the pulpit with these words: "O thou that hearest prayer, unto

thee shall all flesh come!" and most unluckily laid a strong

emphasis on ALL FLESH. The coincidence was ominous; and I need

not say, the people were not edified, for the effect was

ludicrous. I mention this fact, which fell under my own notice, to

warn those who minister in righteousness to avoid expressions

which may be capable, from a similar circumstance, of a ludicrous

application. I have known many good men who, to their no small

grief, have been encumbered with a preternatural load of muscles;

an evil to be deprecated and deplored.

Verse 3. Iniquities prevail against me] This is no just

rendering of the original, dibrey avonoth

gaberu menni; "iniquitous words have prevailed against me," or,

"The words of iniquity are strong against me." All kinds of

calumnies, lies, and slanders have been propagated, to shake my

confidence, and ruin my credit.

Our transgressions, thou shalt purge them away.] Whatsoever

offences we have committed against thee, thou wilt pardon;

tecapperem, thou wilt make atonement for them, when with hearty

repentance and true faith we turn unto thee. This verse has been

abused to favour Antinomian licentiousness. The true and correct

translation of the former clause will prevent this.

The old Scottish Version of this verse, in their singing Psalms,

is most execrable:-

"Iniquities, I must confess,

Prevail against me do:

And as for our trans-gres-si-ons

Them purge away wilt thou."

O David, if thou art capable of hearing such abominable doggerel

substituted for the nervous words thou didst compose by the

inspiration of the Holy Ghost, what must thou feel, if chagrin can

affect the inhabitants of heaven!

Verse 4. Blessed is the man whom thou choosest] This is spoken

in reference to the priests who were chosen of God to minister at

the tabernacle; and who were permitted to approach, draw nigh, to

the Divine Majesty by the various offerings and sacrifices which

they presented.

We shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house] Though we

are not priests, and have not the great felicity to minister

before thee in holy things; yet we can worship at thy temple, feel

the outpouring of thy Spirit, and be made happy with the blessings

which thou dispensest there to thy true worshippers.

Verse 5. By terrible things in righteousness] The Vulgate joins

this clause to the preceding verse: "Thy holy temple is wonderful

in righteousness: thou wilt hear us, O God of our salvation." But

the psalmist may refer to those wonderful displays of God's

providence in the change of seasons, and fertilization of the

earth; and, consequently, in the sustenance of all animal beings.

The confidence of all the ends of the earth] Thou art the hope

of thy people scattered through different parts of the world, and

through the isles of the sea. This passage is also understood of

the vocation of the Gentiles.

Verse 6. Setteth fast the mountains] It is by thy strength they

have been raised, and by thy power they are girded about or

preserved. He represents the mountains as being formed and pitched

into their proper places by the mighty hand of God; and shows that

they are preserved from splitting, falling down, or mouldering

away, as it were, by a girdle by which they are surrounded. The

image is very fine. They were hooped about by the Divine power.

Verse 7. Stilleth the noise of the seas] Thou art Sovereign over

all the operation of sea and land. Earthquakes are under thy

control: so are the flux and reflux of the sea; and all storms and

tempests by which the great deep is agitated. Even the headstrong

multitude is under thy control; for thou stillest the madness of

the people.

Verse 8. Are afraid at thy tokens] Thunder and lightning, storms

and tempests, eclipses and meteors, tornadoes and earthquakes, are

proofs to all who dwell even in the remotest parts of the earth,

that there is a Supreme Being who is wonderful and terrible in his

acts. By these things an eternal power and Godhead become manifest

even to the most barbarous. From this verse to the end of the

Psalm there is a series of the finest poetic imagery in the world.

The outgoings of the morning, &c.] The rising and setting sun,

the morning and evening twilight, the invariable succession of day

and night, are all ordained by thee, and contribute to the

happiness and continuance of man and beast. Or, All that fear thee

praise thee in the morning, when they go to their work, and in the

evening, when they return home, for thy great goodness manifested

in the continuance of their strength, and the success of their

labour.

Verse 9. Thou visitest the earth] God is represented as going

through the whole globe, and examining the wants of every part,

and directing the clouds how and where to deposit their

fertilizing showers, and the rivers where to direct their

beneficial courses.

The river of God] Some think the Jordan is meant; and the

visiting and watering refer to rain after a long drought. But the

clouds may be thus denominated, which properly are the origin of

rivers.

Thou preparest them corn] Or, Thou wilt prepare them corn,

because "thou hast provided for it." Thou hast made all necessary

provision for the fertilization of the earth. Thou hast endued the

ground with a vegetative power. Rains, dews, and the genial heat

of the sun enable it to put forth that power in providing grass

for cattle, and corn for the service of man.

Verse 10. Thou waterest the ridges] In seedtime thou sendest

that measure of rain that is necessary, in order to prepare the

earth for the plough; and then, when the ridges are thrown into

furrows, thou makest them soft with showers, so as to prepare

them for the expansion of the seed, and the vegetation and

developement of the embryo plant.

Thou blessest the springing thereof.] Literally, Thou wilt bless

its germinations-its springing buds. Thou watchest over the young

sprouts; and it is by thy tender, wise, and provident care that

the ear is formed; and by thy bountiful goodness that mature

grains fill the ear; and that one produces thirty, sixty, or

a hundred or a thousand fold.

Verse 11. Thou crownest the year] A full and plentiful harvest

is the crown of the year; and this springs from the unmerited

goodness of God. This is the diadem of the earth; ittarta,

Thou encirclest, as with a diadem. A most elegant expression, to

show the progress of the sun through the twelve signs of the

zodiac, producing the seasons, and giving a sufficiency of light

and heat alternately to all places on the surface of the globe, by

its north and south declination (amounting to 23� 28' at the

solstices) on each side of the equator. A more beautiful image

could not have been chosen; and the very appearance of the space

termed the zodiac on a celestial globe, shows with what propriety

the idea of a circle or diadem was conceived by this inimitable

poet.

Thy paths drop fatness.] magaleycha, "thy orbits." The

various planets, which all have their revolutions within the

zodiacal space, are represented as contributing their part to the

general fructification of the year. Or perhaps the solar

revolution through the twelve signs, dividing the year into twelve

parts or months, may be here intended; the rains of November and

February, the frosts and snows of December and January,

being as necessary for the fructification of the soil, as the

gentle showers of spring, the warmth of summer, and the heat

and drought of autumn. The earth's diurnal rotation on its axis,

its annual revolution in its orbit, and the moon's course in

accompanying the earth, are all wheels or orbits of God, which

drop fatness, or produce fertility in the earth.

Verse 12. The pastures of the wilderness] Even the places which

are not cultivated have their sufficiency of moisture, so as to

render them proper places of pasturage for cattle. The terms

wilderness and desert, in the Sacred Writings, mean, in general,

places not inhabited and uncultivated, though abounding with

timber, bushes, and herbage.

The little hills rejoice] Literally, The hills gird themselves

with exultation. The metaphor appears to be taken from the

frisking of lambs, bounding of kids, and dancing of shepherds and

shepherdesses, in the joy-inspiring summer season.

Verse 13. The pastures are clothed with flocks] Cattle are seen

in every plain, avenue, and vista, feeding abundantly; and the

valleys are clothed, and wave with the richest harvests; and

transports of joy are heard every where in the cheerful songs of

the peasantry, the singing of the birds, the neighing of the

horse, the lowing of the ox, and the bleating of the sheep.

Claudian uses the same image:-

Viridis amictus montium.

"The green vesture of the mountains."

Shout for joy, they also sing.] They are not loud and unmeaning

sounds, they are both music and harmony in their different notes;

all together form one great concert, and the bounty of God is the

subject which they all celebrate. What an inimitable description!

And yet the nervous Hebrew is not half expressed, even by the

amended translation and paraphrase above.

ANALYSIS OF THE SIXTY-FIFTH PSALM

This is wholly a poem of thanksgiving; and teaches us how, and

for what, we are to praise God. 1. For spiritual; 2. For temporal

blessings; and, 3. This publicly; in Zion-in his Church.

It has two general parts:-

I. Praise to God for his blessings to his followers, Ps 65:1-5.

II. His common benefits to all mankind, Ps 65:6-13.

I. He sets forth God's grace to his followers of which he

reckons several particulars:-

1. He has established a public ministry among them, and an

atoning sacrifice.

2. He directs and hears their prayers; and to him by sacrifice,

prayer, and praise, may all human beings come.

3. Though evil tongues may prevail against them for a time, yet

he will deliver them.

4. The transgressions committed against him he will accept an

atonement for, and pardon, Ps 65:1-4. See the notes.

5. All that truly worship him in his ordinances shall be made

partakers of spiritual blessedness: "We shall be satisfied with

the goodness of thy house," Ps 65:4.

6. He works powerfully and terribly, but righteously, in behalf

of his followers, against their enemies: "By terrible things in

righteousness," Ps 65:5. 1. He

answers them when they call. 2. By terrible things,-as in Egypt,

the wilderness, &c. 3. And the motive to it is, his justice or

righteousness, by which he punishes his enemies, and gives

retribution to his people.

All this he concludes with a double eulogy of God:

1. Showing what he is peculiarly to his people: "O God of our

salvation."

2. What he is to ALL; "the confidence of all the ends of the

earth," for he sustains all, be they where they may.

II. He descends from his peculiar providence,-the care he takes

of, and the benefits he bestows on, his Church,-to his general

providence, his ordering and sustaining the whole world; which he

amplifies:-

1. "By his strength he setteth fast the mountains," &c., which

is true literally: but, tropologically, it may mean kingdoms and

states.

2. He stilleth the noise of the sea,-and of the waves,-for to

them he sets bounds: "And the tumult of the people." He stills

devils, tyrants, armies, seditions, &c.

3. He does this so, that even those who are in the uttermost

parts of the sea are afraid at his tokens. They see from the

phenomena of nature how powerful and fearful God is.

4. The sun, moon, planets, and stars are under his guidance. Day

and night are ordered by him: "Thou makest the outgoings of the

morning and evening to rejoice."

5. The earth and its inhabitants are his peculiar care: "Thou

visitest the earth," &c., Ps 65:9-11.

In all which the prophet shoves God's mercy, 1. In the rain. 2.

In the rivers. 3. In the growing of the corn. 4. In providing

grass for cattle. 5. In providing store in the summer and

autumn. 6. His clouds drop fatness upon the earth, and all nature

rejoices. The meaning of all is, Man may plough, sow, dig, manure,

prune, watch, fence, &c.; but it is God that gives the increase.

For an account of the imagery here employed, see the notes. The

Psalm is grand beyond description, and can never be sufficiently

admired.

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