Psalms 76

PSALM LXXVI

The true God known in Judah, Israel, Salem, and Zion, 1, 2.

A description of his defeat of the enemies of his people, 3-6.

How God us to be worshipped, 7-9.

He should be considered as the chief Ruler: all the potentates

of the earth are subject to him, 10-12.

NOTES ON PSALM LXXVI

The title, "To the chief Musician on Neginoth, a Psalm or Song

of Asaph." See the titles to Ps 4:1; 6:1. The

Vulgate, Septuagint, and others have, "A Psalm for the

Assyrians;" and it is supposed to be a thanksgiving for the defeat

of the Assyrians. The Syriac says it is a thanksgiving for the

taking of Rabbah, belonging to the children of Ammon. It is

considered by some of the best commentators to have been composed

after the defeat of Sennacherib. That it was composed after the

death of David, and after the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah

were separated, is evident from the first verse. If Asaph was its

author, it could not be the Asaph that flourished in the days of

David but some other gifted and Divinely inspired man of the same

name, by whom several others of the Psalms appear to have been

composed during the captivity.

Verse 1. In Judah is God known] The true God revealed himself to

the Jews. The Israelites, after the separation of the tribes, had

the same knowledge, but they greatly corrupted the Divine worship;

though still God was great, even in Israel.

Verse 2. In Salem also is his tabernacle] Salem was the ancient

name of Jebus, afterward called Jerusalem. Here was the tabernacle

set up; but afterwards, when the temple was built on Mount Zion,

there was his habitation. The Psalm was evidently composed after

the building of Solomon's temple.

Verse 3. There brake he the arrows of the bow] rishphey,

the fiery arrows. Arrows, round the heads of which inflammable

matter was rolled, and then ignited, were used by the ancients,

and shot into towns to set them on fire; and were discharged among

the towers and wooden works of besiegers. The Romans called them

phalaricae; and we find them mentioned by Virgil, AEn. lib. ix.,

ver. 705:-

Sed magnum stridens contorta phalarica venit,

Fulminis acta modo.

On this passage Servius describes the phalarica as a dart or

spear with a spherical leaden head to which fire was attached.

Thrown by a strong hand, it killed those whom it hit, and set fire

to buildings, &c. It was called phalarica from the towers called

phalae from which it was generally projected. In allusion to

these St. Paul speaks of the fiery darts of the devil, Eph 6:16,

to the note on which the reader is requested to refer.

The shield and the sword] If this refers to the destruction of

Sennacherib's army, it may be truly said that God rendered useless

all their warlike instruments, his angel having destroyed 185,000

of them in one night.

Verse 4. Than the mountains of prey.] This is an address to

Mount Zion. Thou art more illustrious and excellent than all the

mountains of prey, i.e., where wild beasts wander, and prey on

those that are more helpless than themselves. Zion was the place

where GOD dwelt; the other mountains were the abode of wild

beasts.

Verse 5. The stout-hearted are spoiled] The boasting

blasphemers, such as Rab-shakeh, and his master Sennacherib, the

king of Assyria.

They have slept their sleep] They were asleep in their tent when

the destroying angel, the suffocating wind, destroyed the whole;

they over whom it passed never more awoke.

None of the men of might] Is not this a strong irony? Where are

your mighty men? their boasted armour, &c.?

Verse 6. At thy rebuke] It was not by any human means that this

immense army was overthrown; it was by the power of God alone. Not

only infantry was destroyed, but the cavalry also.

The chariot and horse] That is, the chariot horses, as well as

the men, were

Cast into a dead sleep.] Were all suffocated in the same night.

On the destruction of this mighty host, the reader is requested to

refer to Clarke's notes on "2Ki 19:35".

Verse 7. Thou, even thou, art to be feared] The Hebrew is

simple, but very emphatic: attah nora attah, "Thou

art terrible; thou art." The repetition of the pronoun deepens the

sense.

When once thou art angry?] Literally, From the time thou art

angry. In the moment thy wrath is kindled, in that moment judgment

is executed. How awful is this consideration! If one hundred and

eighty-five thousand men were in one moment destroyed by the wrath

of God, canst thou, thou poor, miserable, feeble sinner, resist

his will, and turn aside his thunder!

Verse 8. Thou didst cause judgment to be heard] When God

declared by his prophet that the enemy should not prevail, but on

the contrary be destroyed, the earth-the land, and by metonymy

the inhabitants of the land, were struck with astonishment and

terror, so as not to be able to move. The great boaster

Sennacherib, who carried terror, dismay and desolation every

where, was now struck with dumb amazement; and the angel of the

Almighty, in a moment, stopped the breath of those hosts in which

he confided.

Verse 9. The meek of the earth.] The humbled or oppressed people

of the land. The poor Jews, now utterly helpless, and calling upon

the Lord for succour.

Verse 10. Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee] The rage of

Sennacherib shall only serve to manifest thy glory. The stronger

he is, and the more he threatens, and the weaker thy people, the

more shall thy majesty and mercy appear in his destruction and

their support.

The remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.] The Hebrew gives

rather a different sense: "Thou shalt gird thyself with the

remainder of wrath." Even after thou hast sent this signal

destruction upon Sennacherib and his army, thou wilt continue to

pursue the remnant of the persecutors of thy people; their wrath

shall be the cause of the excitement of thy justice to destroy

them. As a man girds himself with his girdle, that he may the

better perform his work, so thou wilt gird thyself with wrath,

that thou mayest destroy thy enemies. A good maxim has been taken

from this verse: "God often so counterworks the evil designs of

men against his cause and followers, that it turns out to their

advantage and his glory; nor does he permit them to go to the

extent of what they have purposed, and of what they are able to

perform. He suffers them to do some mischief, but not all they

would or can do." But how different is the reading of the

Vulgate! Quoniam cogitatio hominis confitebitur tibi: et

reliquiae cogitationis diem festum agent tibi: "The thought of man

shall praise thee; and the remains of thought shall celebrate a

feast day to thee." The Septuagint and the AEthiopic have

understood the text in the same way. Some translate thus:

"Certainly, the ferocity of the man (Sennacherib) shall praise

thee: and thou shalt gird thyself with the spoils of the furious."

The spoils of this great army shall be a booty for thy people.

Probably this is the true notion of the place. The old Psalter

renders it thus: For thoght of man sal schrife (confess) to the,

and levyngs (remains) of thoght a feste day till the sal wirk. The

paraphrase is curious, of which this is the substance: "When man

forsakes perfitly his synne, and sithen (afterwards) rightwisness

werks; it is a feste day; whenne the conscience is clered, and

makes feste with the swetnes of goddes lufe, restand fra besynes

of any creatur in erth: Than is God at hame with his spouse

dwelland."

Verse 11. Vow, and pay unto the Lord] Bind yourselves to him,

and forget not your obligations.

Let all that be round about him] All the neighbouring nations,

who shall see God's judgments against his enemies, should

Bring presents unto him] Give him that homage which is due unto

him.

That ought to be feared.] lammora, "to the terrible

One;" lest they be consumed as the Assyrians have been.

Verse 12. He shall cut off the spirit of princes] Even in the

midst of their conquests, he can fill them with terror and dismay,

or cut them off in their career of victory.

He is terrible to the kings of the earth.] "He is the only Ruler

of princes;" to him they must account. And a terrible account most

of them will have to give to the great God; especially those who,

instigated by the desire of dominion, have, in the lust of

conquest which it generates, laid countries waste by fire and

sword, making widows and orphans without number, and extending the

empire of desolation and death.

Thus all are under his dominion, and are accountable to him.

Even those whom man cannot bring to justice, God will; and to

judge them is one grand use of a final judgment day.

ANALYSIS OF THE SEVENTY-SIXTH PSALM

In this Psalm there are three parts:-

I. The Prerogative of Judah and Israel, Ps 76:1, 2.

II. A narration of God's majesty in the Church, Ps 76:3-11.

III. An exhortation to worship and serve God.

I. The prerogatives of the Jews above all other nations.

1. God was known among them: "In Judah is God known."

2. His name was great in Israel. Illustrious for his manifold

deliverances.

3. At Salem was his tabernacle,-his seat of worship, his

peculiar presence.

4. His dwelling in Zion,-his constant habitation.

II. A narration of God's power and majesty.

He was glorious among good men; more glorious than the mountains

of prey-kingdoms acquired by violence, murder, and robbery.

And this glory was manifest in the following particulars:-

1. They who came to spoil were spoiled, Ps 76:5.

2. They were slain: "They have slept their sleep," Ps 76:5.

3. They could make no head against their destroyer, though they

were both numerous and strong: "None of the men of might have

found their hands," Ps 76:5.

The cause of their consternation:-

1. The rebuke of God, Ps 76:6.

2. He was terrible: "None could stand in his sight," Ps 76:7.

3. He was determinate: "Judgment was heard from heaven,"

Ps 76:8. Sennacherib and his host were destroyed.

The effects produced by this were,

1. Praise from the wicked: "They shall acknowledge this as the

hand of God." Ps 76:10.

2. Victory; though they rally, and return again to the battle,

they shall be routed: "The remainder of wrath shalt thou

restrain," Ps 76:10. See the notes.

III. He exhorts all to praise him:-1. "Vow, and pay." 2. "Fear

and submit to him," Ps 76:11.

This exhortation he founds on the following REASONS:-

1. "He shall cut off the spirit of princes;" take away from

tyrants their prudence and courage.

2. "He is terrible to the kings of the earth." They also shall

know that he is God.

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