Exposition - Explanatory Notes and Quaint Sayings
Hints to the Village Preacher
TITLE. Maschil of Asaph. An instructive Psalm by
Asaph. The history of the suffering church is always edifying; when we see how
the faithful trusted and wrestled with their God in times of dire distress, we
are thereby taught how to behave ourselves under similar circumstances; we learn
moreover, that when fiery trial befalls us, no strange thing happened unto us,
we are following the trail of the host of God.
DIVISION. From Ps 74:1-11 the poet pleads the sorrows of
the nation, and the despite done to the assemblies of the Lord; then he urges
former displays of divine power as a reason for present deliverance (Ps
74:12-23). Whether it is a prophetic Psalm, intended for use in troubles
foreseen, or whether it was written by a later Asaph, after the invasion by
Sennacherib or during the Maccabean wars, it would be very hard to determine,
but we see no difficulty in the first supposition.
Verse 1. O God, why hast thou cast us off for ever? To cast
us off at all were hard, but when thou dost for so long a time desert they
people it is an evil beyond all endurance--the very chief of woes and abyss of
misery. It is our wisdom when under chastisement to enquire, "Show me wherefore
thou contendest with me?" and if the affliction be a protracted one, we should
more eagerly enquire the purport of it. Sin is usually at the bottom of all the
hiding of the Lord's face; let us ask the Lord to reveal the special form of it
to us, that we may repent of it, overcome it, and henceforth forsake it. When a
church is in a forsaken condition it must not sit still in apathy, but turn to
the hand which smiteth it, and humbly enquire the reason why. At the same time,
the enquiry of the text is a faulty one, for it implies two mistakes. There are
two questions, which only admit of negative replies. "Hath God cast away his
people?" (Ro 11:1); and the other, "Will the Lord cast off for ever?" (Ps 77:7).
God is never weary of his people so as to abhor them, and even when his anger is
turned against them, it is but for a small moment, and with a view to their
eternal good. Grief in its distraction asks strange questions and surmises
impossible terrors. It is a wonder of grace that the Lord has not long ago put
us away as men lay aside cast off garments, but he hateth putting away, and will
still be patient with his chosen. Why doth thine anger smoke against the sheep of thy
pasture? They are thine, they are the objects of thy care, they are poor,
silly, and defenceless things: pity them, forgive them, and come to their
rescue. They are but sheep, do not continue to be wroth with them. It is a
terrible thing when the anger of God smokes, but it is an infinite mercy that it
does not break into a devouring flame. It is meet to pray the Lord to remove
every sign of his wrath, for it is to those who are truly the Lord's sheep a
most painful thing to be the objects of his displeasure. To vex the Holy Spirit
is no mean sin, and yet how frequently are we guilty of it; hence it is no
marvel that we are often under a cloud.
Verse 2. Remember thy congregation, which thou hast purchased
of old. What a mighty plea is redemption. O God, canst thou see the
blood mark on thine own sheep, and yet allow grievous wolves to devour them? The
church is no new purchase of the Lord; from before the world's foundation the
chosen were regarded as redeemed by the Lamb slain; shall ancient love die out,
and the eternal purpose become frustrate? The Lord would have his people
remember the paschal Lamb, the bloodstained lintel, and the overthrow of Egypt;
and will he forget all this himself? Let us put him in remembrance, let us plead
together. Can he desert his blood bought and forsake his redeemed? Can election
fail and eternal love cease to glow? Impossible. The woes of Calvary, and the
covenant of which they are the seal, are the security of the saints.
The rod of thine inheritance, which thou hast redeemed. So
sweet a plea deserved to be repeated and enlarged upon. The Lord's portion is
his people--will he lose his inheritance? His church is his kingdom, over which
he stretches the rod of sovereignty; will he allow his possessions to be torn
from him? God's property in us is a fact full of comfort: his value of us, his
dominion over us, his connection with us are all so many lights to cheer our
darkness. No man will willingly lose his inheritance, and no prince will
relinquish his dominions; therefore we believe that the King of kings will hold
his own, and maintain his rights against all comers.
This mount Zion, wherein thou hast dwelt. The Lord's having
made Zion the especial centre of his worship, and place of his manifestation, is
yet another plea for the preservation of Jerusalem. Shall the sacred temple of
Jehovah be desecrated by heathen, and the throne of the Great King be defiled by
his enemies? Has the Spirit of God dwelt in our hearts, and will he leave them
to become a haunt for the devil? Has he sanctified us by his indwelling, and
will he, after all, vacate the throne? God forbid. It may be well to note that
this Psalm was evidently written with a view to the temple upon Zion, and not to
the tabernacle which was there in David's time, and was a mere tent; but the
destructions here bewailed were exercised upon the carved work of a substantial
structure. Those who had seen the glory of God in Solomon's peerless temple
might well mourn in bitterness, when the Lord allowed his enemies to make an
utter ruin of that matchless edifice.
Verse 3. Lift up thy feet unto the perpetual desolations.
The ruin made had already long been an eyesore to the suppliant, and there
seemed no hope of restoration. Havoc lorded it not only for a day or a year, but
with perpetual power. This is another argument with God. Would Jehovah sit still
and see his own land made a wilderness, his own palace a desolation? Until he
should arise, and draw near, the desolation would remain; only his presence
could cure the evil, therefore is he entreated to hasten with uplifted feet for
the deliverance of his people. Even all that the enemy hath done wickedly in the
sanctuary. Every stone in the ruined temple appealed to the Lord; on all
sides were the marks of impious spoilers, the holiest places bore evidence of
their malicious wickedness; would the Lord for ever permit this? Would he not
hasten to overthrow the foe who defied him to his face, and profaned the throne
of his glory? Faith finds pleas in the worst circumstances, she uses even the
fallen stones of her desolate palaces, and assails with them the gates of
heaven, casting them forth with the great engine of prayer.
Verse 4. Thine enemies roar in the midst of thy
congregations. Where thy people sang like angels, these barbarians roar like
beasts. When thy saints come together for worship, these cruel men attack them
with all the fury of lions. They have no respect for the most solemn gatherings,
but intrude themselves and their blasphemies into our most hallowed meetings.
How often in times of persecution or prevalent heresy has the church learned the
meaning of such language. May the Lord spare us such misery. When hypocrites
abound in the church, and pollute her worship, the case is parallel to that
before us; Lord save us from so severe a trial. They set up their ensigns for signs. Idolatrous emblems
used in war were set up over God's altar, as an insulting token of victory, and
of contempt for the vanquished and their God. Papists, Arians, and the modern
school of Neologians, have, in their day, set up their ensigns for signs.
Superstition, unbelief, and carnal wisdom have endeavoured to usurp the place of
Christ crucified, to the grief of the church of God. The enemies without do us
small damage, but those within the church cause her serious harm; by supplanting
the truth and placing error in its stead, they deceive the people, and lead
multitudes to destruction. As a Jew felt a holy horror when he saw an idolatrous
emblem set up in the holy place, even so do we when in a Protestant church we
see the fooleries of Rome, and when from pulpits, once occupied by men of God,
we hear philosophy and vain deceit.
Verse 5. A man was famous according as he had lifted up axes
upon the thick trees. Once men were renowned for felling the cedars
and preparing them for building the temple, but now the axe finds other work,
and men are as proud of destroying as their fathers were of erecting. Thus in
the olden times our sires dealt sturdy blows against the forests of error, and
laboured hard to lay the axe at the root of the trees; but, alas! their sons
appear to be quite as diligent to destroy the truth and to overthrow all that
their fathers built up. O for the good old times again! O for an hour of
Luther's hatchet, or Calvin's mighty axe!
Verse 6. But now they break down the carved work thereof at
once with axes and hammers. The invaders were as industrious to
destroy as the ancient builders had been to construct. Such fair carving it was
barbarous to hew in pieces, but the Vandals had no mercy and broke down all,
with any weapon which came to hand. In these days men are using axes and
sledgehammers against the gospel and the church. Glorious truths, far more
exquisite than the goodliest carving, are cavilled over and smashed by the blows
of modern criticism. Truths which have upheld the afflicted and cheered the
dying are smitten by pretentious Goths, who would be accounted learned, but know
not the first principals of the truth. With sharp ridicule, and heavy blows of
sophistry, they break the faith of some: and would, if it were possible, destroy
the confidence of the elect themselves. Assyrians, Babylonians, and Romans are
but types of spiritual foes who labour to crush the truth and the people of God.
Verse 7. They have cast fire into thy sanctuary. Axes and
hammers were not sufficient for the purpose of the destroyers, they must needs
try fire. Malice knows no bounds. Those who hate God are never sparing of the
most cruel weapons. To this day the enmity of the human heart is quite as great
as ever; and, if providence did not restrain, the saints would still be as fuel
for the flames. They have defiled by casting down the dwelling place of thy
name to the ground. They made a heap of the temple, and left not one
stone upon another. When the Lord left Mount Zion, and the Roman gained
entrance, the military fury led the soldiers to burn out and root up the
memorial of the famous House of the Lord. Could the powers of darkness have
their way, a like fate would befall the church of Christ. "Rase it, "say they,
"rase it even to the foundation thereof." Defilement to the church is
destruction; her foes would defile her till nothing of her purity, and
consequently of her real self, remained. Yet, even if they could wreak their
will upon the cause of Christ, they are not able to destroy it, it would survive
their blows and fires; the Lord would hold them still like dogs on a leash, and
in the end frustrate all their designs.
Verse 8. They said in their hearts, Let us destroy them
together. It was no idle wish, their cruelty was sincere, deep seated, a
matter of their inmost heart. Extirpation was the desire of Haman, and the aim
of many another tyrant; not a remnant of the people of God would have been left
if oppressors could have had their way. Pharaoh's policy to stamp out the nation
has been a precedent for others, yet the Jews survive, and will: the bush though
burning has not been consumed. Even thus the church of Christ has gone through
baptism of blood and fire, but it is all the brighter for them. They have burned up all the synagogues of God in the land.
Here is no allusion to places called synagogues, but to assemblies; and as no
assemblies for worship here held in but one place, the ruin of the temple was
the destruction of all the holy gatherings, and so in effect all the meeting
places were destroyed. One object of persecutors has always been to put an end
to all conventicles, as they have called them. Keep them from meeting and you
will scatter them, so have the enemy said; but, glory be to God, saints are
independent of walls, and have met on the hill side, by the moss, or in the
catacombs, or in a boat at sea. Yet has the attempt been almost successful, and
the hunt so hot, that the faithful have wandered in solitude, and their solemn
congregations have been, under such circumstances, few and far between. What
sighs and cries have in such times gone up to the ears of the Lord God of
Sabaoth. How happy are we that we can meet for worship in any place we choose,
and none dare molest us.
Verse 9. We see not our signs. Alas, poor Israel! No Urim
and Thummim blazed on the High Priest's bosom, and no Shechaniah shone from
between the cherubim. The smoke of sacrifice and cloud of incense no more arose
from the holy hill; solemn feasts were suspended, and even circumcision, the
covenant sign, was forbidden by the tyrant. We, too, as believers, know what it
is to lose our evidences and grope in darkness; and too often do our churches
also miss the tokens of the Redeemer's presence, and their lamps remain
untrimmed. Sad complaint of a people under a cloud! There is no more any prophet. Prophecy was suspended. No
inspiring psalm or consoling promise fell from bard or seer. It is ill with the
people of God when the voice of the preacher of the gospel fails, and a famine
of the word of life falls on the people. God sent ministers are as needful to
the saints as their daily bread, and it is a great sorrow when a congregation is
destitute of a faithful pastor. It is to be feared, that with all the ministers
now existing, there is yet a dearth of men whose hearts and tongues are touched
with the celestial fire. Neither is there any among us that knoweth how long. If
someone could foretell an end, the evil might be borne with a degree of
patience, but when none can see a termination, or foretell an escape, the misery
has a hopeless appearance, and is overwhelming. Blessed be God, he has not left
his church in these days to be so deplorably destitute of cheering words; let us
pray that he never may. Contempt of the word is very common, and may well
provoke the Lord to withdraw it from us; may his long suffering endure the
strain, and his mercy afford us still the word of life.
Verse 10. O God, how long shall the adversary reproach?
Though we know not how long yet thou dost. The times and seasons are with thee.
When God is reproached, there is hope for us, for it may be he will hearken and
avenge his dishonoured name. Wickedness has great license allowed it, and
justice lingers on the road; God has his reasons for delay, and his seasons for
action, and in the end it shall be seen that he is not slack concerning his
promise as some men count slackness. Shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever? He will do so
for ever, unless thou dost give him his quietus. Wilt thou never defend thyself,
and stop slanderous tongues? Wilt thou always endure the jeers of the profane?
Is there to be no end to all this sacrilege and cursing? Yes, it shall all be
ended, but not by and by. There is a time for the sinner to rage, and a time in
which patience bears with him; yet it is but a time, and then, ah, then!
Verse 11. Why withdrawest thou thy hand, even thy right
hand? Wherefore this inaction, this indifference for thine own honour and
thy people's safety? How bold is the suppliant! Does he err? Nay, verily, we who
are so chill, and distant, and listless in prayer are the erring ones. The
kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and he who learns the art shall surely
prevail with God by its means. It is fit that we should enquire why the work of
grace goes on so slowly, and the enemy has so much power over men: the inquiry
may suggest practical reflections of unbounded value.
"Why dost thou from the conflict stay?
Why do thy chariot wheels delay?
Lift up thyself, hell's kingdom shake,
Arm of the Lord, awake, awake."
Pluck it out of thy bosom. A bold simile, but dying men
must venture for their lives. When God seems to fold his arms we must not fold
ours, but rather renew our entreaties that he would again put his hand to the
work. O for more agony in prayer among professing Christians, then should we see
miracles of grace. We have here before us a model of pleading, a very rapture of
prayer. It is humble, but very bold, eager, fervent, and effectual. The heart of
God is always moved by such entreaties. When we bring forth out strong reasons,
then will he bring forth his choice mercies.
Verses 12-23. Having spread the sad case before the Lord, the
pleader now urges another series of arguments for divine help. He reasons from
the Lord's former wonders of grace, and his deeds of power, imploring a
repetition of the same divine works.
Verse 12. For God is my King of old. How consoling is this
avowal! Israel in holy loyalty acknowledges her King, and claims to have been
his possession from of old, and thence she derives a plea for defence and
deliverance. If the Lord be indeed the sole monarch of our bosoms, he will in
his love put forth his strength on our behalf; if from eternity he has claimed
us as his own, he will preserve us from the insulting foe. Working salvation in the midst of the earth. From the most
remote period of Israel's history the Lord had worked out for her many
salvations; especially at the Red Sea, the very heart of the world was
astonished by his wonders of deliverance. Now, every believer may plead at this
day the ancient deeds of the Lord, the work of Calvary, the overthrow of sin,
death, and hell. He who wrought out our salvation of old will not, cannot desert
us now. Each past miracle of grace assures us that he who has begun to deliver
will continue to redeem us from all evil. His deeds of old were public and
wrought in the teeth of his foes, they were no delusions or make believes; and,
therefore, in all our perils we look for true and manifest assistance, and we
shall surely receive it.
Verse 21. O let not the oppressed return ashamed. Though
broken and crushed they come to thee with confidence; suffer them not to be
disappointed, for then they will be ashamed of their hope. Let the poor and needy praise thy name. By thy speedy
answer to their cries make their hearts glad, and they will render to thee their
gladdest songs. It is not the way of the Lord to allow any of those who trust in
him to be put to shame; for his word is, "He shall call upon me, and I will
deliver him, and he shall glorify me."
Verse 22. Arise, O God, plead thine own cause. Answer thou
the taunts of the profane by arguments which shall annihilate both the blasphemy
and the blasphemer. God's judgments are awful replies to the defiance of his
foes. When he makes empires crumble, and smites persecutors to the heart, his
cause is pleaded by himself as none other could have advocated it. O that the
Lord himself would come into the battle field. Long has the fight been trembling
in the balance; one glance of his eyes, one word from his lip, and the banners
of victory shall be borne on the breeze. Remember how the foolish man reproacheth thee daily. The
Lord is begged to remember that he is himself reproached, and that by a mere
man--that man a fool, and he is also reminded that these foul reproaches are
incessant and repeated with every revolving day. It is bravely done when faith
can pluck pleas out of the dragon's mouth and out of the blasphemies of fools
find arguments with God.
Verse 23. Forget not the voice of thine enemies. Great
warrior let the enemy's taunt provoke thee to the fray. They challenge thee;
accept thou the gage of battle, and smite them with thy terrible hand. If the
cries of thy children are too feeble to be heard, be pleased to note the loud
voices of thy foes and silence their profanities for ever. The tumult of those that rise up against thee increaseth
continually. The ungodly clamour against thee and thy people, their
blasphemies are loud and incessant, they defy thee, even thee, and because thou
repliest not they laugh thee to scorn. They go from bad to worse, from worse to
worst; their fury swells like the thunders of an advancing tempest. What will it
come too? What infamy will next be hurled at thee and thine? O God, wilt thou
for ever bear this? Hast thou no regard for thine honour, no respect for thy
glory? Much of this Psalm has passed over our mind while beholding the
idolatries of Rome, (the author visited Rome in November and December, 1871,
while this portion of the Treasury of David was in progress) and remembering her
bloody persecution of the saints. O Lord, how long shall it be ere thou wilt
ease thyself of those profane wretches, the priests, and cast the harlot of
Babylon into the ditch of corruption? May the church never cease to plead with
thee till judgment shall be executed, and the Lord avenged upon Antichrist.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Whole Psalm. There is one singularity in this Psalm which
reminds one strongly of Psalm 44: there is not one mention of national or
personal sin throughout, no allusion to the Lord's righteous dealing in their
punishment, no supplication for pardon and forgiveness; and yet one can hardly
doubt that the writer of the Psalm, be he who he may, must have felt as keenly
as Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, or any other prophet of the captivity, the sins
and iniquities which had brought all this sore evil upon them. But still, though
there be expostulations, there is no complaint; though there be mourning, there
is no murmuring; there is far more the cry of a smitten child, wondering why,
and grieving that his father's face is so turned away from him in displeasure,
and a father's hand so heavy on the child of his love. Or, as we might almost
say, it is like the cry of one of those martyred ones beneath the altar,
wondering at the marauder and oppressor, and exclaiming, "How long, O Lord, how
long?" And yet it is the appeal of one who was still a sufferer, still groaning
under the pressure of his calamities, "Why has thou cast us off for ever?
We see not our signs, there is no more any prophet among us."
Whole Psalm. The peculiarity of this Psalm is marred by the
very frequent use of the xeg, for
ever: Ps 74:1,3,10. E. W. Hengstenberg.
Verse 1. This Psalm, and particularly these words, do
contain the church's sad lamentation over her deep affliction, together with her
earnest expostulations with God about the cause. Two things there are that the
church in these words doth plead with God. First, The greatness of her
affliction: secondly, the nearness of he relation.
1. The greatness of her affliction. And there were three
things in her affliction that did make it lie very heavy upon her. First, the
root of this affliction; and that was God's anger: Why doth
thine anger smoke, etc. Secondly, the height of this
affliction; God was not only angry, but he did smoke in his anger.
Thirdly, the length of this affliction: it was so long that God did seem
to cast them off for ever.
2. The nearness of her relation: Against the
sheep of thy pasture; as if they should have said, Lord,
if thou hadst done this against thine enemies, it had been no wonder; if thou
hadst poured out thy wrath against the vessels of wrath, it had not been so
much. But what! wilt thou draw out thy sword against the sheep of thy
pasture? It were no wonder that thou shouldest take the fat and the strong,
and pour out thy judgments upon them; but wilt thou do it to thy
There be several doctrines that I may raise from these words;
First doctrine: That God's people are his sheep.
Second doctrine: That God may be sorely angry with his own
people, with his own sheep.
Third doctrine: That when God is angry with his people, it
becomes them carefully to enquire into the cause.
Fourth doctrine: That when God's people are under afflictions,
they ought to take notice of, and be much affected with, his anger, from which
they do proceed.
Fifth doctrine: That God's people under affliction are, or
should be, more affected with his anger than with their smart. This is that
which the church doth complain of, not that the church did so smart, but that
God was displeased and angry; that did most affect them.
Sixth doctrine: That God's people are apt to have misgiving
thoughts of God when they are in sore afflictions. God was angry with his
people, and their hearts did misgive them, as if God did cast off his people.
Seventh doctrine: That God may be angry with his people, so
sore, and so long, that in the judgment of sense it may seem that they are for
ever cast off. Eighth doctrine: That though the people of God may not murmur
against his proceedings, yet they may humbly expostulate with him about the
cause. Joseph Alleine. 1633-1668.
Verse 1. Why doth thine anger smoke, etc. Anger is a fire;
and in men, and other creatures enraged, a smoke seemeth to go out of their
nostrils. Xenophon saith of the Thebans, when they are angry they breathe fire.
This then is spoken of God, after the manner of men. John Trapp.
Verse 1. The sheep of thy pasture. There is nothing more
imbecile than a sheep: simple, frugal, gentle, tame, patient, prolific, timid,
domesticated, stupid, useful. Therefore, while the name of sheep is here
used, it is suggested how pressing the necessity is for divine assistance, and
how well befitting the Most High it would be to make their cause his own.
Verse 2. Remember thy congregation. It is not without reason
that they do not say, Remember us, but Remember thy congregation,
not ours, but thine; nor that because it has now begun to be thine,
but which thou hast purchased of old, the rod of thine inheritance
which thou hast redeemed: likewise, this Mount Zion; not wherein we, but
wherein thou hast dwelt. They had nothing which they could bring
before an angry God with greater confidence, than the ancient lovingkindness
shown to their fathers in former days. Musculus.
Verse 2. The rod of thine inheritance. hlxg jbv, the inheritance rod is the
staff with which the inheritance is measured; jkv hdmh hgq, the land surveyor's rod (Eze 40:3); and this is used
as lrwg, the lot, is for the
portion, for the inheritance itself. E. W. Hengstenberg.
Verse 2. Thine inheritance. It signifies a nation, which
through all successions God had a peculiar right and title to. Henry
Verse 2. Thou hast redeemed, i.e., the purchased
people, by restoring them when they had been alienated, and had fallen into the
hands of others: like a goel, or near kinsman, who ransoms a brother
hurried into captivity, and regains an inheritance that has been sold.
Verse 3. Lift up thy feet. Or, thy hammers, that is,
"thy strokes, "to "stamp" or "beat down" the enemy "unto perpetual desolations."
Thus the "feet" are used to "tread down with, " Isa 26:6; and so the Greek
taketh it here, changing the metaphor, and translating it, "Thy hands, "which
are also instruments to strike down with. Or, lift up thy feet, that is,
come quickly to see the perpetual desolations, which the enemy
hath made. Henry Ainsworth.
Verse 3. Lift up thy feet. Abu Walid renders it, Tread
hard upon thine enemies. The Jewish Arab, Shew forth thy
punishment, adding in a note that the lifting up the feet implies
punishment, the bringing under by force being usually expressed by
treading under the feet. Henry Hammond.
Verse 3. Lift up thy feet, etc. To these desolations
they seek that God would lift up his footsteps, that is, that he would
approach. In Ge 29:1, there occurs the phrase, to lift the feet;
here the expression is much more marked--to lift up the
footsteps --and must be taken to mean a swift, impetuous, majestic, and
powerful approach; like a hero, who strikes the ground with heavy tread, and
advances rapidly with far sounding footsteps. Hermann Venema.
Verse 3. In the sanctuary. Their cities had been laid waste,
their provinces, their farms, their vineyards, their oliveyards. They themselves
had been everywhere cut down without striking a blow in defence, and their means
of life had been snatched away without resistance. Yet they speak not of these
things; not because things of this sort ought not to cause grief, nor yet
because the saints are not touched with a sense of their loss; but because those
things which threatened the extinction of religion and the worship of God,
overtopped the feeling of all these other misfortunes with an intolerable
Verse 4. Thine enemies roar, etc. The word gav is used especially of the roar of the lion... In
this place we may justly extend the application of the verb to those noisy
words, whether mirthful or boastful, blasphemous against God and calamitous to
his people (Ps 74:10), breathing terror and threatenings through edicts; or rude
and senseless, as in their idolatrous worship; or in their prayers and
thoughtless songs. As in Isa 52:5, its meaning is to howl. Hermann
Verse 4. They set up their ensigns for signs. The meaning
is, that the enemy, having abolished the signs of the true God, of his people
and religion, such as circumcision, the feasts, sacrifices, the other ordinances
of religion, and other marks of liberty, substituted his own idolatrous signs,
as the signs of his authority and religion. Hermann Venema.
Verses 4-7. (The persecution under Antiochus. B.C.
168.) Athenaeus proceeded to Jerusalem, where, with the assistance of the
garrison, he prohibited and suppressed every observance of the Jewish religion,
forced the people to profane the Sabbath, to eat swine's flesh, and other
unclean food, and expressly forbade the national rite of circumcision. The
Temple was dedicated to Jupiter Olympus: the statue of that deity was erected on
part of the altar of burnt offerings, and sacrifice duly performed... As a last
insult, the feasts of the Bacchanalia, the license of which, as they were
celebrated in the later ages of Greece, shocked the severe virtue of the older
Romans, were substituted for the national festival of Tabernacles. The reluctant
Jews were forced to join in these riotous orgies, and to carry the ivy, the
insignia of the god. So near was the Jewish nation, and the worship of Jehovah,
to total extermination. Henry Hart Milman (1791-1868), in "A History of the
(Under Titus.) And now the Romans, upon the flight of
the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and
of all the buildings lying round about it, brought their ensigns to the temple,
and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifices
to them, and there did they make Titus imperator, with the greatest acclamation
of joy. Josephus.
Verse 8. The synagogues of God. It is the opinion of
Spencer, Vitringa, and of the learned in general, that the institution of
synagogues for worship originated in the reading of the law publicly after the
collection of its volumes by Ezra, and that, consequently, there were no such
places of solemn assembly previous to the Babylonish captivity. Some of the Jews
themselves have expressed a conviction that this is the fact, and the Scriptures
give no intimation of their existence antecedently to that time. We are aware,
however, that one of the first Hebraists of the present day, the Rev. Dr.
Macaul, inclines to the opinion of an earlier origin than that generally
adopted. We quote his words: "The existence of such places before the Babylonish
captivity has been much disputed"; and most writers, arguing from the silence of
the Old Testament, incline to the opinion that they originated in Babylon, and
that after the restoration similar oratories were opened in the land of Israel;
and hence some infer that the Seventy-fourth Psalm, which says in the eighth
verse, They have burned up all the synagogues in the land, was
written in the post Babylonian times. The argument from silence is, however, far
from conclusive. The translation of yrewm
as synagogues, in the verse just cited, might fairly lead to a similar
translation in some other passages which were confessedly written before the
captivity; and the circumstances, character, and necessities of the Israelites,
the great body of whom were far removed from the temple, prove indisputably that
in their towns and villages they must have had some locality where they
assembled on their sabbaths, new moons, and other solemn days, for the purpose
of receiving instruction in the law, and for public prayer. That locality,
however different from subsequent arrangements, was the origin of the
synagogue. How such assemblies were conducted before the captivity it is
now impossible to say. F. A. Cox.
Verse 8. Synagogues. Dr. Prideaux affirms that they had no
synagogues before the Babylonish captivity; for the main service of the
synagogue, says he, being the reading of the law unto the people, where there
was no book of the law to be read, there certainly could be no synagogues. But
how rare the book of the law was through all Judaea, before the Babylonish
captivity, many texts of Scripture tell us. When Jehoshaphat sent teachers
through all Judaea, to instruct the people in the law of God, they carried a
book of the law with them (2Ch 17:9), which they needed not have done if there
had been any copies of the law in those cities to which they went; which
certainly there would have been had there been any synagogues in them. And when
Hilkiah found the law in the temple (2Ki 22:8), neither he nor king Josiah
needed to have been so surprised at it, had books of the law been common on
those times. Their behaviour on that occasion sufficiently proves they had never
seen it before, which could not be the case had there then been any other copies
of it to be found among the people; and if there were no copies of the law at
that time among them, there could then be most certainly no synagogues
for them to resort to for the hearing of it read unto them. From whence he
concludes there could be no synagogues among the Jews, till after the
Babylonish captivity. Cruden's Concordance.
Verse 8. Synagogues. The assertion of those who are in
favour of the Maccabean origin of the Psalm, that these words describe the
destruction of the synagogues, is met by the remark, that in all the
copious accounts which we have of the transactions of these times, there is
nothing said of any such work of destruction. E. W. Hengstenberg.
Verse 8. Synagogues. In the Old Testament we find no traces
of meetings for worship in synagogues. Temporary altars, groves, and high places
were used alike by the Jewish saints and sinners for the worship of God and
idols. The only pre-exile instance which seems to indicate that the devout in
Israel were in the habit of resorting to pious leaders for blessings and
instruction on stated occasions, is to be found in 2Ki 4:23, where the
Shunammite's husband asks, "Wherefore wilt thou go to him (Elisha) today? It is
neither new moon nor Sabbath." Yet 2Ki 22:8, etc.; 2Ch 34:14, etc., testify
undoubtedly against the existence of places of worship under the monarchy. It is
during the exile, whilst the temple worship was in abeyance, that we find
indubitable proof of the systematic meetings on fasts for devotion and
instruction (Zec 7:3-5 8:19). Religious meetings were also held on Sabbaths and
fasts, to instruct the exiles in the divine law, and to admonish them to obey
the divine precepts, (Ezr 10:1-9 Ne 8:1-3 9:1-3 13:1-3). These meetings, held
near the temple and in other localities, were the origin of the synagogue,
and the place in which the people assembled was denominated the house of
assembly. Hence, also, the synagogue in the temple itself... These
synagogues soon became very popular, so that the psalmist in depicting worship
in the time of the Maccabees declares that the many meeting places of God--or
the Synagogues of God as the A.V. rightly renders it--have been
laid waste. Christian D. Ginsburg, in Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature.
Verse 8. (second clause). The sense seems to be,
they (the Chaldaean invaders) have abolished all the solemnities in
the land. They have taken away the daily sacrifice; they have put an end to
the festivals and feasts of our holy ritual. Compare La 2:6: "He hath violently
taken away his tabernacle; he hath destroyed his places of the assembly, "(or
rather, his assembly, his moed). "The Lord hath caused the solemn feasts
and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion." Christopher Wordsworth.
Verse 9. We see not our signs. As if they had said,
heretofore God was wont to give us signs and tokens, he would even work miracles
for us, or he would send a prophet to instruct and advise us what to do; we had
those who could tell us how long, that is, how long our troubles should
last, and when we should have our expected end of them; but now we are in
trouble, and no man can tell us how long, now we are left to the wide world, to
shift for ourselves as well as we can; the Lord will not advise us what to do,
nor give us his mind what's best to be done, or how to proceed; thus deplorable
was their condition upon the hiding of God's face from them. Joseph
Verse 9. We see not our signs. These signs, which he mourned
that he did not see, were certain outward marks of God's special favour, certain
testimonies of his presence, certain memorials that he was with them to bless
them. And it is said that there were five things in Solomon's temple destroyed
by Nebuchadnezzar, which were not in the second temple, which was erected after
the Babylonish captivity. Five memorials or tokens of God's special presence
were then wanting. One was the ark of the covenant; another, the fire from
heaven upon the brazen altar; the third, the Shechaniah, or cloud that rested
upon the mercyseat; the fourth, the Urim and Thummim which were in the
breastplate of the high priest; and the fifth, the spirit of prophecy. For
though there were the prophets, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi, at the time of,
and shortly after, the restoration; yet the spirit of prophecy ceased with
Malachi, and did not reappear until John the Baptist, the forerunner of the Lord
Jesus... The lamentation of the church here, then, was, that she saw not her
signs. So now, the church of the living God, the regenerate family of Zion, have
often reason to pour out the same melancholy complaint. Signs of God's favour,
marks and testimonies of his work of grace upon their souls, are often so out of
sight, so buried in obscurity, so enveloped in clouds of darkness, that the
living family are compelled, from soul feeling, to take up the language of
lamentation here expressed, and say, We see not our signs. J. C.
Verse 9. Our signs. The ordinary signs of Israel
being God's peculiar people are the passover (Ex 12:13), the Sabbath (Ex 21:13),
the temple, the altar, the sacrifices; the extraordinary ones are God's miracles
wrought in his people's behalf (Ps 78:43). A. R. Fausset.
Verse 9. There is no more any prophet. By us it ought to be
observed what they do not say: It is not, --here is no more any giant or warlike
leader who may deliver us from the adversary: but, there is no more any prophet.
And yet when the prophets were with them, they were contemptible in the eyes of
all, maltreated by the wicked and put to death. Musculus.
Verse 10. Shall the enemy blaspheme the name for ever? The
sinner never leaves his sin till sin first leaves him: did not death put a stop
to his sin, he would never cease from sin. This may be illustrated by a
similitude thus: A company of gamesters resolve to play all night, and
accordingly they sit down to chess tables, or some other game; their candle,
accidentally or unexpectedly, goes out, or is put out, or burnt out; their
candle being out, they are forced to give over their game, and go to bed in the
dark; but had the candle lasted all night, they would have played all night.
This is every sinner's case in regard of sin: did not death put out the candle
of life, the sinner would sin still. Should the sinner live for ever, he would
sin for ever; and, therefore, it is a righteous thing with God to punish him for
ever in hellish torments. Every impenitent sinner would sin to the days of
eternity, if he might live to the days of eternity. O God, how long shall the
adversary reproach? shall the enemy blaspheme thy name for ever? For
ever, and evermore; or for ever and yet--for so the Hebrew loves to exaggerate:
as if the sinner, the blasphemer, would set a term of duration longer than
eternity to sin in. The psalmist implicitly saith, Lord, if thou dost but let
them alone for ever, they will certainly blaspheme thy name for ever and ever. I
have read of the crocodile, that he knows no maximum quod sic, he is
always growing bigger and bigger, and never comes to a certain pitch of
monstrosity so long as he lives. Quamdiu vivit crescit. Every habituated
sinner would, if he were let alone, be such a monster, perpetually growing worse
and worse. Thomas Brooks.
Verse 12. God is my King of old, etc. Let us learn from this
verse how to think of our God. First, that he is our King, and therefore we
ought to be encouraged to pray for his help against the ungodly, and to place
ourselves in entire submission to his will and government. Secondly, that he is
not a new God, but the Ancient of Days, and that whatever salvation has been
wrought not only in the midst of his own people, but in the midst of the whole
earth, even among those by whom he is not acknowledged, has been wrought by him.
Let this meaning strike at the root of all trust in other gods, or in any
Verse 13. Thou didst divide the sea. Thou, O Lord, didst
make firm the flowing sea, that there might be a way for our fathers to pass
over, and in those very waters through which thou didst lead thy ransomed, thou
didst utterly overthrow the hosts of Egypt, who were like dragons for ferocity,
as they sought to devour thy people. Jansenius.
Verse 14. Thou brakest the heads of leviathan, etc. It is
spoken of Pharaoh's army which God destroyed in the Red Sea; that is, the
destruction of the Egyptians was a pledge of the accomplishment of God's promise
to cast the Canaanite out of the promised land, and to give them possession of
it. Many hardships they were to pass through in the wilderness, but God gave
them this mercy as food, not to their bodies, but food to their faith, while
they were in the wilderness: therefore, those former great and glorious promises
were accomplished. So that former mercies are food that God gives unto the faith
of his people to feed upon, till he hath perfectly accomplished whatever he hath
promised unto his church. William Strong.
Verse 14. Leviathan. The Arabic Lexicographers (quoted by
Bochart) affirm that Pharao, in the Egyptian language, signified a
crocodile. Parkhurst remarks that in Schenchzer's Physica Sacra may be seen a
medal with Julius Caesar's head on one side, and on the reverse a crocodile with
this inscription: AGYPTO CAPTA, Egypt taken. M. Mariette has
discovered at Karnak a monumental stele of Thothmes on which the king says of
"Fierce as the huge crocodile, I made them see the glory of my God;
Terrible Lord of the waters, none dare even approach him."
Verse 14. Leviathan is a name given not only to the
crocodile, but to the whale and other large fishes. The Zum, or people
inhabiting the wilderness, are supposed, by many sensible writers, to be the
Ichthyophagy, or fish eaters, who occupied, according to ancient authors, a part
of the coast of the Red Sea. The psalmist is here speaking of Israel's passage
through its waters; and it is a singular fact that Diodorus, who lived about two
thousand years ago, mentions a tradition, prevalent amongst these very persons,
to the effect that in the time of their remote forefathers an extraordinary
reflux took place, the channel of the gulf becoming dry, and the green bottom
appearing, whilst the whole body of waters rolled away in an opposite direction.
There can be little doubt that this strange people would have used for food, and
various purposes, such great fish as might have been cast ashore on the
termination of the miracle. Most writers give this text a figurative meaning,
but that is no reason why it may not be also literally understood; for such a
mode of speaking is common in the Bible. But whether we understand it one way or
the other, we have the testimony of heathens to its propriety and force. If, by
the term Leviathan, we believe Egypt to be intended, and by its
heads those petty states into which that country was divided, the
traditions of India, and the East, inform us that such designations were well
understood, and therefore beautifully applicable. Anon., in "Biblical and
Theological Gleanings"; by William O'Neill. 1854.
Verse 14. Meat to the people inhabiting the wilderness. May
not the exact meaning be that even as the sea monsters washed upon the shore
furnished food for the inhabitants of the Red Sea, even so the symbolic dragon
power of Egypt when destroyed at the Red Sea, became food for Israel's faith,
and even furnished provision for their wilderness journey by the spoil which was
cast up by the tide. C. H. S.
Verse 15. Flood. God in dividing Jordan did not only divide
the water that ordinarily belonged to the river, or the water which came from
its fountains, but also the extraordinary additional waters by the great rains a
little before harvest. So God cleaved both the fountain, i.e., the
fountain water, and the flood. Jonathan Edwards.
Verse 16. The day is thine, the night also is thine.
Ah! do not be sorrowful, darling,
And do not be sorrowful, pray--
Taking the year together, my dear,
There is not more night than day.
And God is God, my darling,
Of night as well as day;
And we feel and know that we can go,
Wherever he leads the way.
A God of the night, my darling,
Of the night of death so grim,
The gate that leads out of life, good wife,
Is the gate that leads to Him.
From "In the Sere and Yellow Leaf, "in "The Circling Year."
Verse 16. Day. Night. These changes are according to a
fixed law. Day and night are the ordinances of heaven upon earth for
the growth of earth's life, and, if we could trace the sunshine and the dark in
every follower of God, we should see them arranged with equal wisdom. It is a
more complex work, but, be sure of this, there is order in it all, and the hand
that rules the world in its orbit, and that makes it fulfil its course through
light and shade, is governing our lives for a higher than earthly end. One
feature of the law is presented so far for our guidance. It is a law of
alternation. It is day and night, and, let us thank God, it is also in due
time night and day. Each has its time and use. John Ker. 1869.
Verse 16. Thou hast prepared the light. It is but recently
that we have been able to form any conception of the power of light as an agent
in the economy of the globe; the discoveries of Actinism are among the most
interesting and marvellous of natural science. The discovery that "no substance
can be exposed to the sun's rays without undergoing a chemical change, "has been
described as scarcely less important in its effects than the discovery of the
law of gravitation. A sunbeam is one of the most powerful of all the agencies of
nature; magical as it is, it breaks up the strongest chemical affinities; it is
the author of colour, and it is the creator of a myriad combinations, which all
tend to the harmony of the world. Nor ought we to forget the moral influence of
light. We are all aware of the sensible difference produced in our moral natures
by a fine day or a dark day. Light gives zest and tone to the spirits; light
gives buoyancy and joy to the soul; light crowds the chambers of the mind with
ideas; Light is Life: the merest insect could not live without light; and
even blind natures receive, in those organs which are not the property of
vision, the assurance of its benignant operations. Light is Order: and at
its wand and command the separation takes place, and dark and light pair off
into their separate ranks. Light is Beauty: whether in the refulgence of
the moon; the chill sparkle of the stars; the unrivalled play of colours in the
attenuated film of the soap bubble, at once the toy of childhood and the tool of
the sage; the rich play of tints in the mother of pearl, or the rich gorgeous
rays in the plumes of birds. Light is Purity: forms that rankle out of
the glance of its clear, steady beam, contract around themselves loathness and
disgust, and become the seats of foulness and shame. Light is Growth:
where it is, we know that nature pursues her work in life and in vigour; light
gives vitality to the sap; light removes obstructions from the pathway of the
growing agencies, while, in its absence, forms become stunted, gnarled, and
impaired. Light is Health: as it darts its clear and brilliant points to
and fro, it brings in its train those blessings of elasticity and energy, which
give the fulness of being--which is perfect health to the expanding forms. There
is a fine consistency, when Scripture makes light to contain, as it were, the
seeds of all things, and when the prelude of all creation is made to be those
words, "God said, Let there be light." This, then, is the part light is made to
play in the history of the world; it is used by moral power to become the
creator of moral influence. What a long series of creations elapsed before moral
causes seemed to operate in the affairs of the globe! But he, whose nature and
whose names are Light, had given to light its distinct being and work; and that
creative word, "Let there be light, "spoke right forwards to the moral
energies which were to be superinduced by its creation. Thus light, it is true,
went before all things, and became the cause of moral consequences; but then,
this arose from the divine hand, whence darted its benevolent beams. It was
God who gave it its divine commission, to divine between light and darkness;
it was God who made it the fountain of knowledge and of day; it was
God who gave to it the faculty to become, in turn, a creator, and to warm
into life and beauty a myriad seeds and shape of loveliness. E. Paxton
Verse 16. The light and the sun. I was considerably affected
in my younger days by the long standing objection, that Moses made light
to exist before the creation of the sun; as books then usually taught, what some
still fancy, that there could not have been light without this luminary. But not
choosing, on such important point, to attach my faith to any general assertion,
I sought to find out if any investigator of the nature of light had perceived
any distinction in its qualities or operation, which made it a fluid or matter
independent of the sun. It was not easy, before the year 1791, to meet with the
works of any student of nature on such a subject, as it had been little attended
to; but I at length saw the fact asserted by Henckel, a German of the old
school, of some value in his day, and soon afterwards some experiments were
announced in England which confirmed the supposition. It has been a favourite
point of attention with me ever since; and no truth in philosophy seems to be
now more clearly ascertained than that light has a distinct existence, separate
and independent of the sun. This is a striking confirmation of the Mosaic
record; for that expressly distinguishes the existence and operation of light
from the solar action upon it, and from that radiation of it which is connected
with his beams and presence. By Moses, an interval of three days is placed
between the luminous creation, and the appearance and position of the sun and
moon. Light was, therefore, operating by its own laws and agencies, without the
sun, and independently of his peculiar agency, from the first day to the fourth
of our terrestrial fabrication. But from the time that the sun was placed in his
central position, and his rays were appointed to act on our earth, they have
been always performing most beneficial operations, essential to the general
course of things. Sharon Turner (1768-1847), in "The Sacred History of the
Verse 17. Thou hast set all the borders of the earth. The
actual distribution of sea and land over the surface of the globe is likewise of
the highest importance to the present condition of organic life. If the ocean
were considerably smaller, or if Asia and America were concentrated within the
tropics, the tides, the oceanic currents, and the meteorological phenomenon on
which the existence of the vegetable and animal kingdoms depend, would be so
profoundly modified, that it is extremely doubtful whether man could have
existed, and absolutely certain that he could never have risen to a high degree
of civilisation. The dependence of human progress upon the existing
configuration of the globe necessarily leads us to the conclusion that both must
be the harmonious work of the same Almighty Power, and that a divine and
immutable plan has from all eternity presided over the destinies of our planet.
It is almost superfluous to point out how largely the irregular windings and
undulations of the coasts, the numerous islands scattered over the face of the
waters, the promontories stretching far away into the domains of the sea, and
the gulfs plunging deeply into the bosom of the land, have contributed to the
civilisation of the human race by multiplying its points of contact with the
ocean, the great highway of nations. G. Hartwig, in "The Harmonies of
Verse 17. Thou hast set all the borders of the earth.
Consider the form of the earth. It is known to be globular, and in shape nearly
like an orange. And why has God chosen that form? With a view that it might be
inhabited by living creatures on its whole surface. In order to this, every part
of the globe must have sufficient light and heat, the wind must have a free
circulation, and the water must be diffused over all its parts. The rotundity of
the earth is best calculated to promote these conveniences: for this round form
admits light and heat, without which there could be no life all over the globe.
The revolutions of day and night, the changes in the temperature of the air,
heat, cold, dryness or moisture, could not have taken place without this form.
Had the earth been square, had it been conic, had it been an hexagon, or any
other angular form, what must the consequence have been? The greatest part of
our earth would have been drowned, whilst the rest, would have languished with
drought. Some countries must have been torn in pieces by storms, while others
would have been deprived of the wholesome circulation of wind. I have new reason
to admire the supreme wisdom, when I reflect on the enormous mass which composes
our world. Were the earth softer, or more spongy than it is, men and animals
would sink into it; were it harder and less penetrable, it would resist the toil
of the labourer, and lose its capacity for producing and nourishing the
multitude of plants, herbs, roots, and flowers, which now spring out of its
bosom. There are regular and distinct strata found in the earth; some of stone,
others of metal and minerals. There are numerous and evident advantages which
result from these in favour of mankind. Do not the strata of gravel, sunk deep
in the earth, purify and in a manner filter the water and render it sweet and
fit for use? On the surface of the earth there is a varied prospect; there is an
admirable mixture of plains and valleys, of small hills and mountains. The man
must be blind indeed that does not see the wise purpose of the Great Author of
nature, in thus diversifying the surface of the earth. Were the earth an even
plain, how much beauty would it lose? Besides, this variety of valley and
mountain is very favourable to the health of living creatures, and were there no
hills, the earth would be less peopled with men and animals. There would be
fewer plants, fewer simples and trees. We should be deprived of metals and
minerals: the vapours would not be condensed, nor should we have either springs
or rivers. Must we not then acknowledge that the whole plan of the earth, its
form, its inward and outward construction, are all regulated according to the
wise laws, which all combine towards the pleasure and happiness of mankind? O
thou supreme Author of nature, thou hast done all things well! Whichever way I
turn my eyes, whether I penetrate into the interior structure of the globe thou
hast appointed me to inhabit, or whether I examine its surface, I everywhere
discover marks of profound wisdom and infinite goodness. Christopher
Verse 17. Thou hast made summer and winter. Plasmasti
ea. Now thou hast done all this and more for mankind in general, wilt thou
be wanting to thy church? John Trapp.
Verse 17. Winter. As if fatigued with so many cares, nature
now rests; this, however, is only to collect new force, again to be employed for
the good of the world. But even this rest, which nature enjoys in winter, is a
secret activity. A new creation is preparing in silence. The necessary
dispositions are already making, that the desolate earth may again recover the
children she has lost. The corn which is to serve us for food, already shoots.
The fibres of plants, which are to adorn our fields and gardens, begin
insensibly to open. O my beneficent Creator! Here I find fresh cause to adore
thy wisdom and power. The repose which nature takes it as worthy to enter into
the plan of thy wise providence, as the activity she shows in spring and summer.
Thou hast wisely combined the several revolutions of the earth, thou hast
equally divided its rest and labour. It is thy will that each day should vary
the scenes of nature, in that way which is most proper for the perfection of the
whole. Pardon, O God, my temerity, If I have been so stupid as to blame anything
in the government of the world. I am more than ever convinced that all the plans
of thy providence, though they may appear extraordinary to my weak reason, are
replete with wisdom and goodness. Christopher Christian Sturm. 1750-1786.
Verse 19. O deliver not, etc. How weak soever the church be,
and how many and strong soever the enemy be, yet cannot they all devour the
church, except the Lord should deliver his church over into their hands, against
which evil the church hath ground of confidence to pray, O deliver not the
soul of thy turtledove unto the multitude of the wicked; for he hath
given his church wings, and a hiding place too, as the comparison imports, if he
please to give her the use thereof also. David Dickson.
Verse 19. The people of God are taught in this form of
supplication how to edge and keen their prayers, and make them vigorous; to wit,
by disclaiming any ability or sufficiency in themselves; by styling themselves a
congregation of poor, silly, weak doves, no way able to encounter an army of
bestial, cunning, crafty, bloody, boisterous enemies. This plea the people of
God make use of: "With thee the fatherless findeth mercy, "Ho 14:3. John
Verse 19. The soul of thy turtledove. They compare
themselves to a turtledove, whose nature leads it, in whatever way it may be
afflicted, not to indulge in noisy impatience, but to mourn in secret; so the
afflicted people of Israel were unable to do anything but breathe their sighs
and groans to God. Musculus.
Verse 19. Thy turtledove. God's people are an harmless,
innocent people, altogether unable and insufficient to help themselves against
their enemies, who are numerous, cruel, and barbarous. Hence they are resembled
to sheep, doves; called in the Word, fatherless, orphans, little ones, babes,
poor, simple, needy. They are men bound to their good behaviour, may not harbour
so much as a bad thought against any; are called to suffer, not to do wrong.
Julian did jeer at them for this; he would strike them on the one cheek, and
tell them that their Master taught them to turn the other; his soldiers would
take away their cloaks, and mind them that they must part with their coats also.
Out of their own dispositions they judge of others, therefore may easily be
deceived and entrapped. Thus Gedaliah, that sweet man, would not believe the
relation of Johanan touching the conspiracy of the crocodile Ishmael against
him; nay, was even angry with him for his faithful dealing that way, and it cost
him his life. Jer 40:16,41. That famous admiral of France, Jasper Coligny,
though he had information and intelligence from sundry parts beyond the seas,
that the court did intend to mischief him, and that there was no security in
their promises and agreements, though backed with oaths, thrust himself,
notwithstanding, upon the lion, and was smoothed with one paw and torn with the
other: being such, they lie open to the rage of many adversaries... One would
think these turtles should rather win the love of all that come near them than
incur the hatred of any, for they are quiet and peaceable persons. In the mount
of the Lord there is no hurt done (Isa 11:9), yet, notwithstanding, they are
maligned by a world of people. Because they are not like them (1Pe 4:4); because
they are not of their number (Joh 15:19); because their persons and their
sacrifices are more acceptable with God than the others' (Ge 4:4); because they
reprove them for their evil ways (Joh 3:20); because they are for the most part
poor and mean, have no great forecast in worldly affairs, are no deep
politicians, they are such as those pauperes Lugdunensis, those poor men
of Lyons in France, therefore are exposed to beasts and lions (Mt 1:25); because
they mourn for sin in themselves and others: they quarrel with the dove even
because of her mournful note. They will jeer at sighing sisters, and men that
hang the head like a bulrush; yet, seeing this bulrush cannot grow without mire
and mud, why should it not hang the head? John Langley.
Verse 19. Thy turtledove. This expression may, perhaps, be
further illustrated from the custom, ancient and modern, of keeping doves as
favourite birds (see Theocritus v. 96, and Virgil Eclog. 3. v 68,
69), and from the care taken to secure them from such animals as are dangerous
to them. James Merrick.
Verse 19. Turtle Doves, of whatever species they be,
whether travellers or domesticated, are equally preserved by the inhabitants of
Egypt: they do not kill, and never eat them. Wishing to know the motive of this
abstinence among people who possess so little in the greater part of their
action, I learnt that it was for the honour of humanity. It is a consequence of
the respect due to hospitality, which the Arabs hold in such high estimation,
and of which they have communicated some shades to the people who dwell among
them. They would regard it as a violation of this hospitality not to spare those
birds, which come with a perfect confidence to live amongst them, and there to
become skilful but useless receptors of love and tenderness. The very farmer,
who sees his harvest a prey for the flights of turtle doves which alight on his
fields, neither destroys nor harasses them, but suffers them to multiply in
tranquillity. C. N.S. de M. Sonnini. 1775-1811.
Verse 19. Forget not the congregation of thy poor.
Thy poor, by way of discrimination. There may be a greater distance
between poor and poor, than there is between poor and rich. There are many
"ragged regiments, ""congregations of poor, "whom the Lord will forget for ever;
but his poor shall be saved. And these poor are of two sorts; either poor
in regard of wealth and outward substance, or poor in regard of friends or
outward assistance. A rich man, especially a godly rich man, may be in a poor
case, destitute and forsaken, wanting patronage and protection. God saveth the
poor in both notions, both those that have no friends, and those that have no
estates. Joseph Caryl.
Verse 20. Have respect. The word, in the original
signification of it, imports a fastening of the eyes upon some object, that a
man desires to look into. Hence, by a metaphor, it is transferred to the eyes of
the mind, and signifies a serious weighing and consideration of a thing. God is
said to "wink at the times of ignorance, "or not to regard it, Ac 17:30. God's
people here look at God, as if he did wink at his covenant, and neither look at
it, nor them in their miseries. The psalmist desires him that he would be
mindful of it for his people's deliverance. Francis Taylor, in "A Sermon
preached before the House of Commons, " entitled "God's Covenant the
Churches Plea." 1645.
Verse 20. Have respect unto the covenant. This presseth the
Lord more than the former; this is the close grappling, as it were, with him in
the words of Jacob: "I will not let thee go till thou hast blessed me." This is
the throwing out of the greatest sheet anchor in the tempest, for it lays hold
on God's faithfulness, and truth, and fatherly goodness. If they be not in
covenant with God, it may be charged upon them. --"You have violated my holy
law, you have incensed my wrath against you by your perverse ways, therefore I
will not help you, but give you up; "but now the souls that be in covenant with
God will not be put off so (be it spoken with holy reverence), but will cry out,
O Lord, though our iniquities testify against us, yet have respect unto thy
covenant. Yet be sure you walk uprightly before the Lord...With what face
can any one say, Lord, have respect unto thy covenant, when he
casts his own covenant behind his back, and cannot say with the prophet David,
"I have a respect to all thy commandments"? How canst thou say, "Deliver me not
up to the many beasts without, "when thou art not afraid to be delivered up to
thy vile, bestial lusts and affections that are within? Thou hypocrite, first
labour the subduing of the monsters that are within thee, then a fair way will
be open to have thine enemies subdued round about thee. John Langley.
Verse 20. Have respect unto the covenant. Those persons and
preachers who decline to think and speak of gospel mercies and free salvation as
secured by covenant, deprive themselves and others of much of the blessed
comforts of God's word. Such was not the manner of the inspired psalmist.
William S. Plumer.
Verse 20. God seems to his people to neglect his covenant,
when they are oppressed by ungodly men. So Asaph complains. After an
acknowledgment that God was the Shepherd of Israel, and so in covenant with his
people, and accordingly had wonderfully brought them out of Egypt, and made them
flourish marvellously in the land of Canaan, he attributes their misery to God's
neglect. Many reasons may be given of this unkind carriage of God's people to
him. As, first, because their misery blinds them; and blind men when they are
smitten suspect every man that comes near them. Secondly, self love makes us
suspect any rather than ourselves, yea, even God himself. The people should have
reflected upon themselves that were innocent, but in their sorrows they reflect
upon God that was innocent. We are all Adam and Eve's children. When Eve had
eaten of the forbidden fruit, she tacitly lays the fault upon God: "The serpent
beguiled me, and I did eat." Ge 3:13. Hadst thou not made a subtil serpent I had
not broken thy commandment. Adam lays it openly upon God: "The woman who thou
gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat." Ge 3:12. Hadst
thou not given me such a companion to betray me, I had been innocent. So we
their posterity, when trouble is upon us, suspect God's breaking covenant,
rather than our own. Thus our nurses beat the stone when children stumble
through their own neglect. Thirdly, in time of need we most commonly suspect
such as are best able to help us. The sick man, if he be in danger of death,
suspects not his ignorant neighbours, but his skilful physician. He that is
oppressed in his estate, when the sentence goes against him, suspects none more
than the advocate, or the judge. We know God is best able to help us; our
corruption, therefore, makes us to suspect him most, if our troubles continue.
Fourthly, we most suspect those who, as we think, have most reason to help us in
our miseries, and do it not. If the servant wants meal or apparel, he complains
not of his fellow servants but of his master, who is tied by covenant to provide
for him; if the child be wronged by the servants, he lays not the fault upon his
brethren but upon his father, who by bands of nature is obliged to take care of
him. So we, being in covenant with God, wonder not much if others fail us, but
complain heavily if God seems to neglect us. Francis Taylor.
Verse 20. The psalmist moves God in prayer to look to his
covenant by this argument: For the dark places of the earth are full of
the habitations of cruelty; that is, of cruel men, or of men so full
of cruelty, that they deserve rather to be called cruelty than cruel:
this sort of men inhabit and fill up all those places where the light of holy
truth doth not shine. Now, if they who want the light, or have no true knowledge
of God among them, are hereby prepared for the acting of all manner of
wickedness, how much more are they prepared for the acting of wickedness who
have thrust the light from them, and are in dark places of their own making? The
prophet Hosea shows (Ho 4:1), that where there is no knowledge of God in a land,
for want of means, there is no truth nor mercy (that is, there is none
exercised) in that land, but oppression, deceit, and falsehood bear down all:
how much more must it be so when there is no knowledge of God in a land, because
of the contempt of means, and rebellion against the light? What wickedness will
not they do in the dark, who put out the candle that they may not see what they
do? Joseph Caryl.
Verse 20. (second clause). This might have some
literal meaning. The dark places of the earth, some have thought, may
here describe in the first instance, the caves, the dens, and the woods of the
land; for there are many such (as travellers testify) in the land of Judaea, and
in unsettled times they have often been the abode of robbers and murderers, who
have thence sallied forth to molest and cut off the travellers, to ravish
peaceful villages, to waylay and plunder the merchant, to commit all sorts of
crimes, and then to return in impunity to these dark retreats, where they laugh
at all law, human or divine; they quaff, with horrid pleasure, the recollection
of the widow's tears, and listen with inhuman joy to the echoing remembrances of
the orphan's moan and the dying father's shriek. But what a land thus infested
would be, is but a faint image of the heathen world. Wherever heathenism spreads
itself, there are the dark places of the earth. The Scripture often tells
us that. John Hambleton. 1839.
Verse 20. The dark places. An allusion, as sometimes
interpreters conceive, to the dens of wild beasts, wherein they hide themselves
to seize upon their prey, Ps 104:21-22. To these cruel men are compared. Ps
10:8-9. "He sitteth in the lurking places of the villages: in the secret places
doth he murder the innocent. He lieth in wait secretly as a lion in his den: he
lieth in wait to catch the poor." Such places oppressors and robbers choose.
Others take it for an allusion to prisons and dark dungeons void of light. As
the prophet, Isa 42:7, describes a prison: "To open the blind eyes, to bring out
the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison
house." So trouble in Scripture is compared to darkness, and prosperity to
light; because darkness is irksome, and light comfortable: "The people that
walked in darkness have seen a great light; "and then the sorry hiding places
whither God's people went to hide themselves are here meant. Yet, could they not
there be quiet, but were pursued, found out, and spoiled by their adversaries.
Others take dark places for obscure and mean places, as dark men,
in the original, are called mean men in our translation, Pr 22:29.
And then it may either signify that the meanest men did oppress God's people, or
that the poorest and meanest of God's people were not spared. Such usage have we
found in our time, when the poor cottages of our foes have sent out pillagers,
and no cottagers of ours have escaped spoiling in diverse places. Francis
Verse 20. Cruelty. Heathenism is cruel. It is not changed in
character since the days when parents made their children to pass through fire
to Moloch. At this very day, for instance, infanticide prevails in China; and
the "law, "says a book of authority--"the law, otherwise so rigorous, does not
take the slightest cognisance of that crime, nor ever subject those guilty of it
to punishment. Every morning before it is light, waggons traverse the different
quarters of the city of Pekin to receive the dead infants." Well may they go
"before it is light; ""the dark places of the earth are full of the habitations
of cruelty." "The missionaries of that city obtained details, which justify
belief that the number of infants (chiefly females) destroyed there is upwards
of three thousand annually." Think of this same proportion, extended throughout
that densely peopled empire. Among the same people suicide is also of frequent
occurrence. What a contrast with the religion which stays the rash hand, and
calls out, "Do thyself no harm!" We might pass to India; and there the flames of
the funeral piles, on which so many widows were annually burnt, had hardly
expired, when we were shocked, only a few years since, with other proofs of the
cruelty of heathenism. What painful details were those, which our government
brought to light respecting the secret murderers of India! What think you of a
vast fraternity of murderers, consisting of many thousands of persons, which has
existed from generation to generation, which has been ramified over the whole
country from Cape Comorin to the Himalayan mountains, which has flourished alike
under Hindu, Mahometan, and British rulers, and which has every year destroyed
multitudes of victims--and all this under the sanction of religion? The
murderous system, they say, has been enjoined them by the goddess Kalee, who is
represented as having made a grant of half the human race to her votaries, (to
be murdered, that is) according to certain prescribed forms. John
Verse 23. If we are compelled to close our most solemn and
urgent devotions, and our most earnest supplications, without seeing one ray of
light beaming upon our path, it may comfort us to remember that so the pious
psalmist closed this complaint. To hope against hope is the most blessed kind of
hope. William S. Plumer.
HINTS TO THE VILLAGE PREACHER
1. The divine displeasure a fact.
2. It is but in measure, and we are very liable to exaggerate it.
3. Even while it lasts our relation to him is unaffected: Sheep of thy pasture.
4. Our business is to enquire the reason of it, and act accordingly.
Verse 1. (second clause). The Lord's anger with his
people compared to smoke.
1. It is not a consuming fire.
2. It suggests fear of the fire.
3. It darkens the light of joy.
4. It blinds the eyes of faith.
5. It checks the breath of life.
6. It blackens the beauty of our worldly comforts.
1. The Lord's relation to his people.
2. The prayer arising from it: Remember.
Verse 3. Church mischief.
1. The church has enemies.
2. Wickedness in the church is their great weapon.
3. This causes much desolation to weak saints, to enquirers, to peace, to prayer, to usefulness.
4. The cure for it is God's interposition.
Verses 3-4. The power of prayer.
1. On one side were,
(a) Desolation: perpetual, etc.
(c) Declamation: enemies roar.
(d) Demonstration: they set up.
2. On the other side is,
(b) This brings God to the rescue effectually and quickly.
Verse 4. Ensigns for signs. The craft of Satan is
supplanting truth with deceptive counterfeits.
Verse 5. True fame. To build for God with labour, daring,
diligence, skill, etc.
Verse 6. Vandal work against the truth of God.
Verses 6-7. Things feared by a church.
1. Injury to her doctrines or ordinances: carved work.
2. The fire of strife, division, etc.
3. The defilement of sin. Either of these three will throw a church down; let her guard and pray against
Verse 8. The destruction of rural churches, the aim of our
enemies: the injury they would so do, and our duty to prevent it: the means the
destroyers use: bribery, oppression, etc. Our proper method for sustaining such
Verse 9. (first clause).
1. There are such things as signs, that is, tokens and marks of God's special favour to the soul.
2. There is also a seeing those signs when God, the Holy Ghost, is pleased to shine upon them.
3. There is a third state, where there is not seeing the signs, those signs being enveloped in darkness,
dimness, and obscurity. J. C. Philpot.
Verse 10. A prayer for revival.
1. How God is reproached.
2. What are the ill effects of it.
3. When we may expect him to arise.
1. The patience of God with man: He 'withdraws his hand, even,' etc., he hesitates to strike.
2. The impatience of man with God: "pluck it, "etc. G.
1. The sovereignty of God.
2. Its antiquity.
3. Our loyalty to it.
4. The practical character of his reign: working.
5. The graciousness of it: working salvation.
6. The place of its operation: in the midst of the earth.
Verse 14. God's defeat of our enemies, and the benefit
accruing to ourselves.
Verse 15. The wonderful nature of gracious supplies,
illustrated by the smitten rock.
Verse 16. God present alike in all dispensations of
1. The God of grace is the God of nature: The day in thine, etc.
2. The God of nature is the God of grace: the wisdom, the power, the faithfulness the same. See Psalm 19. G. R.
Verse 19. The soul of the believer compared to a turtledove.
1. The title given to heathen nations: dark places of the earth. Not without the light of nature, or of
reason, or of natural conscience, or of philosophy, as of Greece and Rome; but without the light of
2. Their condition: full of, etc.: cruelty in their public, social, and private relationships. See
Romans 1: "without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful."
3. Their part in the covenant. This is known from their part in its promises, and in prophecies: I will give
thee the heathen, etc.
4. The prayer of others on their behalf: Have respect, etc.; Oh send forth thy light, etc.
The conversion of the world will be in answer to the prayers of
Verse 22. God pleading his own cause in providential
visitations of nations and individuals, as also in remarkable conversions and
1. The glory of our cause: it is the Lord's own.
2. The hope of our cause: he will plead it himself.
3. The hope thus derivable from the violence of man: it will move the Lord to arise.