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Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible - Old Testament

Psalm 76 (Chapter LXXVI Study)

 

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Psalms full text: Psalms 1 | Psalms 2 | Psalms 3 | Psalms 4 | Psalms 5 | Psalms 6 | Psalms 7 | Psalms 8 | Psalms 9 | Psalms 10 | Psalms 11 | Psalms 12 | Psalms 13 | Psalms 14 | Psalms 15 | Psalms 16 | Psalms 17 | Psalms 18 | Psalms 19 | Psalms 20 | Psalms 21 | Psalms 22 | Psalms 23 | Psalms 24 | Psalms 25 | Psalms 26 | Psalms 27 | Psalms 28 | Psalms 29 | Psalms 30 | Psalms 31 | Psalms 32 | Psalms 33 | Psalms 34 | Psalms 35 | Psalms 36 | Psalms 37 | Psalms 38 | Psalms 39 | Psalms 40 | Psalms 41 | Psalms 42 | Psalms 43 | Psalms 44 | Psalms 45 | Psalms 46 | Psalms 47 | Psalms 48 | Psalms 49 | Psalms 50 | Psalms 51 | Psalms 52 | Psalms 53 | Psalms 54 | Psalms 55 | Psalms 56 | Psalms 57 | Psalms 58 | Psalms 59 | Psalms 60 | Psalms 61 | Psalms 62 | Psalms 63 | Psalms 64 | Psalms 65 | Psalms 66 | Psalms 67 | Psalms 68 | Psalms 69 | Psalms 70 | Psalms 71 | Psalms 72 | Psalms 73 | Psalms 74 | Psalms 75 | Psalms 76 | Psalms 77 | Psalms 78 | Psalms 79 | Psalms 80 | Psalms 81 | Psalms 82 | Psalms 83 | Psalms 84 | Psalms 85 | Psalms 86 | Psalms 87 | Psalms 88 | Psalms 89 | Psalms 90 | Psalms 91 | Psalms 92 | Psalms 93 | Psalms 94 | Psalms 95 | Psalms 96 | Psalms 97 | Psalms 98 | Psalms 99 | Psalms 100 | Psalms 101 | Psalms 102 | Psalms 103 | Psalms 104 | Psalms 105 | Psalms 106 | Psalms 107 | Psalms 108 | Psalms 109 | Psalms 110 | Psalms 111 | Psalms 112 | Psalms 113 | Psalms 114 | Psalms 115 | Psalms 116 | Psalms 117 | Psalms 118 | Psalms 119 | Psalms 120 | Psalms 121 | Psalms 122 | Psalms 123 | Psalms 124 | Psalms 125 | Psalms 126 | Psalms 127 | Psalms 128 | Psalms 129 | Psalms 130 | Psalms 131 | Psalms 132 | Psalms 133 | Psalms 134 | Psalms 135 | Psalms 136 | Psalms 137 | Psalms 138 | Psalms 139 | Psalms 140 | Psalms 141 | Psalms 142 | Psalms 143 | Psalms 144 | Psalms 145 | Psalms 146 | Psalms 147 | Psalms 148 | Psalms 149 | Psalms 150 | Psalms 151

This psalm seems to have been penned upon occasion of some great victory obtained by the church over some threatening enemy or other, and designed to grace the triumph. The LXX. calls it, "A song upon the Assyrians," whence many good interpreters conjecture that it was penned when Sennacherib's army, then besieging Jerusalem, was entirely cut off by a destroying angel in Hezekiah's time; and several passages in the psalm are very applicable to that work of wonder: but there was a religious triumph upon occasion of another victory, in Jehoshaphat's time, which might as well be the subject of this psalm (2 Chron. xx. 28), and it might be called "a song of Asaph" because always sung by the sons of Asaph. Or it might be penned by Asaph who lived in David's time, upon occasion of the many triumphs with which God delighted to honour that reign. Upon occasion of this glorious victory, whatever it was, I. The psalmist congratulates the happiness of the church in having God so nigh, ver. 1-3. II. He celebrates the glory of God's power, which this was an illustrious instance of, ver. 4-6. III. He infers hence what reason all have to fear before him, ver. 7-9. And, IV. What reason his people have to trust in him and to pay their vows to him, ver. 10-12. It is a psalm proper for a thanksgiving day, upon the account of public successes, and not improper at other times, because it is never out of season to glorify God for the great things he has done for his church formerly, especially for the victories of the Redeemer over the powers of darkness, which all those Old-Testament victories were types of, at least those that are celebrated in the psalms.

Triumph in God.

To the chief musician on Neginoth. A psalm or song of Asaph.

1 In Judah is God known: his name is great in Israel.   2 In Salem also is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion.   3 There brake he the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle. Selah.   4 Thou art more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey.   5 The stouthearted are spoiled, they have slept their sleep: and none of the men of might have found their hands.   6 At thy rebuke, O God of Jacob, both the chariot and horse are cast into a dead sleep.

The church is here triumphant even in the midst of its militant state. The psalmist, in the church's name, triumphs here in God, the centre of all our triumphs.

I. In the revelation God had made of himself to them, v. 1. It is the honour and privilege of Judah and Israel that among them God is known, and where he is known his name will be great. God is known as he is pleased to make himself known; and those are happy to whom he discovers himself—happy people that have their land filled with the knowledge of God, happy persons that have their hearts filled with that knowledge. In Judah God was known as he was not known in other nations, which made the favour the greater, inasmuch as it was distinguishing, Ps. cxlvii. 19, 20.

II. In the tokens of God's special presence with them in his ordinances, v. 2. In the whole land of Judah and Israel God was known and his name was great; but in Salem, in Zion, were his tabernacle and his dwelling-place. There he kept court; there he received the homage of his people by their sacrifices and entertained them by the feasts upon the sacrifices; thither they came to address themselves to him, and thence by his oracles he issued out his orders; there he recorded his name, and of that place he said, Her will I dwell, for I have desired it. It is the glory and happiness of a people to have God among them by his ordinances; but his dwelling-place is a tabernacle, a movable dwelling. Yet a little while is that light with us.

III. In the victories they had obtained over their enemies (v. 3): There broke he the arrows of the bow. Observe how threatening the danger was. Though Judah and Israel, Salem and Zion, were thus privileged, yet war is raised against them, and the weapons of war are furbished.

1. Here are bow and arrows, shield and sword, and all for battle; but all are broken and rendered useless. And it was done there, (1.) In Judah and in Israel, in favour of that people near to God. While the weapons of war were used against other nations they answered their end, but, when turned against that holy nation, they were immediately broken. The Chaldee paraphrases it thus: When the house of Israel did his will he placed his majesty among them, and there he broke the arrows of the bow; while they kept closely to his service they were great and safe, and every thing went well with them. Or, (2.) In the tabernacle and dwelling-place in Zion, there he broke the arrows of the bow; it was done in the field of battle, and yet it is said to be done in the sanctuary, because done in answer to the prayers which God's people there made to him and in the performance of the promises which he there made to them, of both which see that instance, 2 Chron. xx. 5, 14. Public successes are owing as much to what is done in the church as to what is done in the camp. Now,

2. This victory redounded very much, (1.) To the immortal honour of Israel's God (v. 4): Thou art, and hast manifested thyself to be, more glorious and excellent than the mountains of prey. [1.] "Than the great and mighty ones of the earth in general, who are high, and think themselves firmly fixed like mountains, but are really mountains of prey, oppressive to all about them. It is their glory to destroy; it is thine to deliver." [2.] "Than our invaders in particular. When they besieged the cities of Judah, they cast up mounts against them, and raised batteries; but thou art more able to protect us than they are to annoy us." Wherein the enemies of the church deal proudly it will appear that God is above them. (2.) To the perpetual disgrace of the enemies of Israel, v. 5, 6. They were stouthearted, men of great courage and resolution, flushed with their former victories, enraged against Israel, confident of success; they were men of might, robust and fit for service; they had chariots and horses, which were then greatly valued and trusted to in war, Ps. xx. 7. But all this force was of no avail when it was levelled against Jerusalem. [1.] The stouthearted have despoiled and disarmed themselves (so some read it); when God pleases he can make his enemies to weaken and destroy themselves. They have slept, not the sleep of the righteous, who sleep in Jesus, but their sleep, the sleep of sinners, that shall awake to everlasting shame and contempt. [2.] The men of might can no more find their hands than the stout-hearted can their spirit. As the bold men are cowed, so the strong men are lamed, and cannot so much as find their hands, to save their own heads, much less to hurt their enemies. [3.] The chariots and horses may be truly said to be cast into a dead sleep when their drivers and their riders were so. God did but speak the word, as the God of Jacob that commands deliverances for Jacob, and, at his rebuke, the chariot and horse were both cast into a dead sleep. When the men were laid dead upon the spot by the destroying angel the chariot and horse were not at all formidable. See the power and efficacy of God's rebukes. With what pleasure may we Christians apply all this to the advantages we enjoy by the Redeemer! It is through him that God is known; it is in him that God's name is great; to him it is owing that God has a tabernacle and a dwelling-place in his church. He it was that vanquished the strong man armed, spoiled principalities and powers, and made a show of them openly.

The Defence and Glory of Israel.

7 Thou, even thou, art to be feared: and who may stand in thy sight when once thou art angry?   8 Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven; the earth feared, and was still,   9 When God arose to judgment, to save all the meek of the earth. Selah.   10 Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.   11 Vow, and pay unto the Lord your God: let all that be round about him bring presents unto him that ought to be feared.   12 He shall cut off the spirit of princes: he is terrible to the kings of the earth.

This glorious victory with which God had graced and blessed his church is here made to speak three things:—

I. Terror to God's enemies (v. 7-9): "Thou, even thou, art to be feared; thy majesty is to be reverenced, thy sovereignty to be submitted to, and thy justice to be dreaded by those that have offended thee." Let all the world learn by this event to stand in awe of the great God. 1. Let all be afraid of his wrath against the daring impiety of sinners: Who may stand in thy sight from the minute that thou art angry? If God be a consuming fire, how can chaff and stubble stand before him, though his anger be kindled but a little? Ps. ii. 12. 2. Let all be afraid of his jealousy for oppressed innocency and the injured cause of his own people: "Thou didst cause judgment to be heard from heaven, then when thou didst arise to save all the meek of the earth (v. 8, 9); and then the earth feared and was still, waiting what would be the issue of those glorious appearances of thine." Note, (1.) God's people are the meek of the earth (Zech. ii. 3), the quiet in the land (Ps. xxxv. 20), that can bear any wrong, but do none. (2.) Though the meek of the earth are by their meekness exposed to injury, yet God will, sooner or later, appear for their salvation, and plead their cause. (3.) When God comes to save all the meek of the earth, he will cause judgment to be heard from heaven; he will make the world know that he is angry at the oppressors of his people, and takes what is done against them as done against himself. The righteous God long seems to keep silence, yet, sooner or later, he will make judgment to be heard. (4.) When God is speaking judgment from heaven it is time for the earth to compose itself into an awful and reverent silence: The earth feared and was still, as silence is made by proclamation when the court sits. Be still and know that I am God, Ps. xlvi. 10. Be silent, O all flesh! before the Lord, for he is raised up to judgment, Zech. ii. 13. Those that suppose this psalm to have been penned upon the occasion of the routing of Sennacherib's army take it for granted that the descent of the destroying angel, who did the execution, was accompanied with thunder, by which God caused judgment to be heard from heaven, and that the earth feared (that is, there was an earthquake), but it was soon over. But this is altogether uncertain.

II. Comfort to God's people, v. 10. We live in a very angry provoking world; we often feel much, and are apt to fear more, from the wrath of man, which seems boundless. But this is a great comfort to us, 1. That as far as God permits the wrath of man to break forth at any time he will make it turn to his praise, will bring honour to himself and serve his own purposes by it: Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee, not only by the checks given to it, when it shall be forced to confess its own impotency, but even by the liberty given to it for a time, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. The hardships which God's people suffer by the wrath of their enemies are made to redound to the glory of God and his grace; and the more the heathen rage and plot against the Lord and his anointed the more will God be praised for setting his King upon his holy hill of Zion in spite of them, Ps. ii. 1, 6. When the heavenly hosts make this the matter of their thanksgiving-song that God has taken to himself his great power and has reigned, though the nations were angry (Rev. xi. 17, 18), then the wrath of man adds lustre to the praises of God. 2. That what will not turn to his praise shall not be suffered to break out: The remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain. Men must never permit sin, because they cannot check it when they will; but God can. He can set bounds to the wrath of man, as he does to the raging sea. Hitherto it shall come and no further; here shall its proud waves be stayed. God restrained the remainder of Sennacherib's rage, for he put a hook in his nose and a bridle in his jaws (Isa. xxxvii. 29); and, though he permitted him to talk big, he restrained him from doing what he designed.

III. Duty to all, v. 11, 12. Let all submit themselves to this great God and become his loyal subjects. Observe, 1. The duty required of us all, all that are about him, that have any dependence upon him or any occasion to approach to him; and who is there that has not? We are therefore every one of us commanded to do our homage to the King of kings: Vow and pay; that is, take an oath of allegiance to him and make conscience of keeping it. Vow to be his, and pay what you vow. Bind your souls with a bond to him (for that is the nature of a vow), and then live up to the obligations you have laid upon yourselves; for better it is not to vow than to vow and not to pay. And, having taken him for our King, let us bring presents to him, as subjects to their sovereign, 1 Sam. x. 27. Send you the lamb to the ruler of the land, Isa. xvi. 1. Not that God needs any present we can bring, or can be benefited by it; but thus we must give him honour and own that we have our all from him. Our prayers and praises, and especially our hearts, are the presents we should bring to the Lord our God. 2. The reasons to enforce this duty: Render to all their due, fear to whom fear is due; and is it not due to God? Yes; (1.) He ought to be feared: He is the fear (so the word is); his name is glorious and fearful,; and he is the proper object of our fear; with him is terrible majesty. The God of Abraham is called the fear of Isaac (Gen. xxxi. 42), and we are commanded to make him our fear, Isa. viii. 13. When we bring presents to him we must have an eye to him as greatly to be feared; for he is terrible in his holy places. (2.) He will be feared, even by those who think it their own sole prerogative to be feared (v. 12): He shall cut off the spirit of princes; he shall slip it off as easily as we slip off a flower from the stalk or a bunch of grapes from the vine; so the word signifies. He can dispirit those that are most daring and make them heartless; for he is, or will be, terrible to the kings of the earth; and sooner or later, if they be not so wise as to submit themselves to him, he will force them to call in vain to rocks and mountains to fall on them and hide them from his wrath, Rev. vi. 16. Since there is no contending with God, it is as much our wisdom as it is our duty to submit to him.

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Other commentaries and interpretations on the Book of Psalms:
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