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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 118

Clarke's CommentaryClarke Commentary

Verse 1


A general exhortation to praise God for his mercy, 1-4.

The psalmist, by his own experience, encourages the people to

trust in God, and shows them the advantage of it, 5-9;

then describes his enemies, and shows how God enabled him to

destroy them, 10-13.

The people rejoice on the account, 15, 16.

He speaks again of the help he received from the Lord; and

desires admission into the temple, that he may enter and

praise the Lord, 17-19.

The gate is opened, 20.

He offers praise, 21.

The priests, c., acknowledge the hand of the Lord in the

deliverance wrought, 22-24.

The psalmist prays for prosperity, 25.

The priest performs his office, blesses the people, and all

join in praise, 26, 27.

The psalmist expresses his confidence, 28.

The general doxology, or chorus, 29.


Most probably David was the author of this Psalm, though many think it was written after the captivity. It partakes of David's spirit, and every where shows the hand of a master. The style is grand and noble the subject, majestic.

Dr. Kennicott, who joins this and the hundred and seventeenth Psalm together, considers the whole as a dialogue, and divides it accordingly. The whole of the hundred and seventeenth he gives to the psalmist as part the first, with the first four verses of the hundred and eighteenth. The second part, which is from the fifth verse to the twenty-first inclusive, he gives to the Messiah. The third part, from the twenty-second verse to the twenty-seventh, he gives to the chorus. And the fourth part, the twenty-eighth and twenty-ninth verses, he gives to the psalmist. Of the whole he has given an improved version.

Bishop Horsley is still different. He considers the hundred and seventeenth Psalm as only the exordium of this. The whole poem, he states, is a triumphant processional song. The scene passes at the front gate of the temple. A conqueror with his train appears before it; he demands admittance to return thanks for his deliverance and final success, in an expedition of great difficulty and danger. The conqueror and his train sing the hundred and seventeenth Psalm, and the first four verses of the hundred and eighteenth, as they advance to the gate of the temple, in this manner. - The hundred and seventeenth Psalm, Chorus of the whole procession. The first verse of the hundred and eighteenth Psalm, A single voice. The second, Another single voice. The third, A third single voice. The fourth, Chorus of the whole procession. Arrived at the temple gate, the conqueror alone sings the fifth, sixth, and seventh verses. The eighth and ninth are sung by his train in chorus. The conqueror, again alone, sings the tenth, eleventh, twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth verses. His train, in chorus, sing the fifteenth and sixteenth. The conqueror alone sings the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth verses. The twentieth is sung by the priests and Levites within, in chorus. The twenty-fifth by the conqueror alone within the gates. The twenty-sixth, by the priests and Levites in chorus. The twenty-seventh, by the conqueror's train in chorus. The twenty-eighth, by the conqueror alone. The twenty-ninth, by the united chorus of priests and Levites, and the conqueror's train, all within the gates. "Now," the learned bishop adds, "the Jewish temple was a type of heaven; the priests within represent the angelic host attending round the throne of God in heaven; the Conqueror is Messiah; and his train, the redeemed." On this distribution the bishop has given a new version. The simple distribution into parts, which I have given in the contents, is, in my opinion, the best. Ingenious as Dr. Kennicott and Bishop Horsley are, they seem to me too mechanical. This is the last of those Psalms which form the great hallel, which the Jews sung at the end of the passover.

Verse 2

Verse Psalms 118:2. Let Israel now say — Seeing the hand of the Lord so visibly, and the deliverance gained, that God's mercy endureth for ever.

Verse 3

Verse Psalms 118:3. The house of Aaron — The priesthood is still preserved, and the temple worship restored.

Verse 4

Verse Psalms 118:4. That fear the Lord — All sincere penitents and genuine believers. See the notes on Psalms 115:9-11.

Verse 5

Verse Psalms 118:5. I called upon the Lord — I am a standing proof and living witness of God's mercy. Take encouragement from me.

Verse 7

Verse Psalms 118:7. The Lord taketh my part with them that help me — Literally, The Lord is to me among my helpers. Therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me. Literally, And I shall look among them that hate me. As God is on my side, I fear not to look the whole of them in the face. I shall see them defeated.

Verse 8

Verse Psalms 118:8. Better to trust in the Lord — Man is feeble, ignorant, fickle, and capricious; it is better to trust in Jehovah than in such.

Verse 9

Verse Psalms 118:9. In princes. — Men of high estate are generally proud, vain-glorious, self-confident, and rash: it is better to trust in God than in them. Often they cannot deliver, and often they will not when they can. However, in the concerns of our salvation, and in matters which belong to Providence, they can do nothing.

Verse 10

Verse Psalms 118:10. All nations compassed me about — This is by some supposed to relate to David, at the commencement of his reign, when all the neighbouring Philistine nations endeavoured to prevent him from establishing himself in the kingdom. Others suppose it may refer to the Samaritans, Idumeans, Ammonites, and others, who endeavoured to prevent the Jews from rebuilding their city and their temple after their return from captivity in Babylon.

But in the name of the Lord will I destroy them. — Dr. Kennicott renders אמילם amilam, "I shall disappoint them;" Bishop Horsley, "I cut them to pieces;" Mr. N. Berlin, repuli eas, "I have repelled them." "I will cut them off;" Chaldee. Ultus sum in eos, "I am avenged on them;" Vulgate. So the Septuagint.

Verse 12

Verse Psalms 118:12. They compassed me about like bees; they are quenched as the fire of thorns — I shall refer to Dr. Delaney's note on this passage. The reader has here in miniature two of the finest images in Homer; which, if his curiosity demands to be gratified, he will find illustrated and enlarged, Iliad ii., ver. 86.

--------------- Επεσσευοντο δε λαοι.

Ηΰτε εθνεα εισι μελισσαων αδιναων,

Πετρης εκ γλαφυρης αιει νεον ερχομεναων,

Βοτρυδον δε πετονται επ' ανθεσιν ειαρινοισιν,

Αἱ μεν τ' ενθα ἁλις πεποτηαται, αἱ δε τε ανθα

Ὡς των εθνεα πολλα νεων απο και κλισιαων

Ηΐονος προπαροιθε βαθειης εστιχοωντο

Ιλαδον εις αγορην.

----------------The following host,

Poured forth by thousands, darkens all the coast.

As from some rocky cleft the shepherd sees,

Clustering in heaps on heaps, the driving bees,

Rolling and blackening, swarms succeeding swarms,

With deeper murmurs and more hoarse alarms:

Dusky they spread a close embodied crowd,

And o'er the vale descends the living cloud;

So from the tents and ships a lengthening train

Spreads all the beach, and wide o'ershades the plain;

Along the region runs a deafening sound;

Beneath their footsteps groans the trembling ground.


The other image, the fire consuming the thorns, we find in the same book, ver. 455: -

Ηΰτε πυρ αΐδηλον επιφλεγει ασπετον ὑλην,

Ουρεος εν κορυφης· ἑκαθεν δε τε φαινεται αυγη·

Ὡς των ερχομενων, απο χαλκου θεσπεσιοιο

Αιγλη παμφανοωσα δι' αιθερος ουρανον ἱκεν.

As on some mountain, through the lofty grove,

The crackling flames ascend and blaze above;

The fires expanding, as the winds arise,

Shoot their long beams, and kindle half the skies;

So, from the polished arms, and brazen shields,

A gleamy splendour flashed along the fields.


The arms resembling a gleaming fire is common both to the psalmist and Homer; but the idea of that fire being quenched when the army was conquered, is peculiar to the psalmist.

Verse 13

Verse Psalms 118:13. Thou hast thrust sore at me — In pushing thou hast pushed me that I might fall.

But the Lord helped me. — Though he possessed skill, courage, and strength, yet these could not have prevailed had not God been his helper; and to him he gives the glory of the victory.

Verse 15

Verse Psalms 118:15. The voice of rejoicingFormerly there was nothing but wailings; but now there is universal joy because of the salvation-the deliverance, which God has wrought for us.

Verse 16

Verse Psalms 118:16. The right hand of the Lord is exalted — Jehovah lifted up his right hand, and with it performed prodigies of power.

Verse 17

Verse Psalms 118:17. I shall not die — I was nigh unto death; but I am preserved,-preserved to publish the wondrous works of the Lord.

Verse 19

Verse Psalms 118:19. Open to me the gates — Throw open the doors of the temple, that I may enter and perform my vows unto the Lord.

Verse 20

Verse Psalms 118:20. This gate of the Lord — Supposed to be the answer of the Levites to the request of the king.

Verse 21

Verse Psalms 118:21. I will praise thee — He is now got within the gates, and breaks out into thanksgivings for the mercies he had received. He is become my salvation-he himself hath saved me from all mine enemies.

Verse 22

Verse Psalms 118:22-23. The stone which the builders refused — See a full elucidation of these two verses in Clarke's notes on "Matthew 21:42".

Verse 23

Verse Psalms 118:23. Psalms 118:22.

Verse 24

Verse Psalms 118:24. This is the day which the Lord hath made — As the Lord hath called me to triumph, this is the day which he hath appointed for that purpose. This is a gracious opportunity; I will improve it to his glory.

Verse 25

Verse Psalms 118:25. Save now, I beseech thee — These words were sung by the Jews on the feast of tabernacles, when carrying green branches in their hands; and from the הושיעה נא hoshiah nna, we have the word hosanna. This was sung by the Jewish children when Christ made his public entry into Jerusalem. See Matthew 21:9, and see the note there, Matthew 21:9, in which the word and the circumstance are both explained.

Verse 26

Verse Psalms 118:26. We have blessed you — The answer of the Levities to the king.

Verse 27

Verse Psalms 118:27. God is the Lord] Rather אל יהוה El Yehovah, the strong God Jehovah.

Which hath showed us light — ויאר לנו vaiyaer lanu, "And he will illuminate us." Perhaps at this time a Divine splendour shone upon the whole procession; a proof of God's approbation.

Bind the sacrifice with cords — The Chaldee paraphrases this verse thus: "Samuel the prophet said, Bind the little one with chains for a solemn sacrifice, until ye have sacrificed him and sprinkled his blood on the horns of the altar." It is supposed that the words refer to the feast of tabernacles, and חג chag here means the festival victim. Several translate the original "keep the festival with thick boughs of the horns of the altar." In this sense the Vulgate and Septuagint understood the passage. David in this entry into the temple was a type of our blessed Lord, who made a similar entry, as related Matthew 21:8-10.

Verse 29

Verse Psalms 118:29. O give thanks unto the Lord — This is the general doxology or chorus. All join in thanksgiving, and they end as they began: "His mercy endureth for ever." It began at the creation of man; it will continue till the earth is burnt up.


The parts of this Psalm are the following: -

I. An exhortation to praise God for his mercy, Psalms 118:1-5.

II. A persuasion to trust in God, and that from the psalmist's own example, who called upon God, and was delivered from trouble, Psalms 118:5-14.

III. The exultation of the Church for it, Psalms 118:15-18.

IV. A solemn thanksgiving kept for it, and in what manner it was celebrated, Psalms 118:19-27.

V. A short doxology.

1. The psalmist invites all to praise God: "O give thanks," c., and adds his reasons: -

1. "For he is good." How briefly and powerfully spoken! He is absolutely good.

2. "He is good, and ever good." To us he is a merciful God, which flows from his goodness his mercy created, redeemed, protects, and will crown us. Thus his mercy extends especially to his people; therefore, -

1. "Let Israel now say," c. The whole nation.

2. "Let the house of Aaron," c. That whole consecrated tribe.

3. "Let them now that fear the Lord," &c. Proselytes, &c.

II. And thus, having given a general recommendation of his mercy, he descends to instance in what it consists that is, God's great deliverance of him.

1. "I was in distress," c. A frequent case with God's people, as well as with David.

2. "I called upon the lord," &c. I fled to him, not trusting in myself, and found mercy.

3. "The Lord answered me, and set me in a large place." This was the issue.

Upon which experience the psalmist exults, and attributes it to God's mercy.

1. "The Lord is my helper," &c. The Lord is for me, therefore I shall not suffer.

2. "The Lord takes my part," &c. I shall be in safety, while my enemies will be cast down, and the Church freed.

From which he deduces a third inference: -

1, "It is better to trust in the Lord," &c. He is both able and willing to help.

2. "It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in princes." David found this in the case of Achish, king of Gath.

In a song of triumph he acquaints us in what dangers he was, and from which God delivered him. It is good then to trust in the Lord.

1. "All nations compassed me about," &c., but to no purpose.

2. "They compassed me about yea, they compassed me about," c.

3. "They compassed me about like bees," &c. Angry, and armed with stings but my trust is alone in the Lord. In his name, and by his help, "I will destroy them."

He told us of a multitude of enemies and for the overthrow of these he sang his triumph.

1. "Thou hast thrust sore at me," c. I was in great danger there was little hope of escape.

2. "But the Lord helped me." No help was in myself, but the Lord.

In the next verse he fully acknowledges the Lord as his strength.

1. "My strength." By which I resist my enemies.

2. "My salvation." To deliver me from my enemies.

3. "My song." Him whom I joyfully sing after my deliverance.

III. And that this song might be fuller, he calls for the whole choir to sing with him. His delivery concerned the whole Church, and therefore it must be sung by the whole Church; and so it was kept as a jubilee, a day of thanksgiving.

1. "The voice of rejoicing," c. They congratulate their own safety in mine.

2. "The right hand of the Lord," c. This anthem the whole choir sang.

Now this anthem was no sooner ended by the choir, than the psalmist took his harp again and, exulting over his enemies, sings, "I shall not die," c. Not be heart-broken, but "declare the works of the Lord."

And among his works this is one: -

1. "The Lord hath chastened me sore," &c. Within have I struggled hard with sin without have I been assaulted with bitter enemies.

2. "But he hath not given me over," c. I acknowledge in this his fatherly affection.

IV. It is supposed that this Psalm was composed by David, in order that it might be sung when the people and the priests were assembled before the Lord, for the purpose of thanksgiving we may, with Junius, form it into a dialogue.

1. David speaks of the priests and Levites who had the care of the tabernacle: "Open to me the gates," c., that is, the Lord's house "for I will go in to them," c.

2. To this the priests reply, "This is the gate," &c. The sole gate of justice that leads to him.

David replies, showing in brief his reason: "I will praise thee," &c. and to the twenty-eighth verse, he shows how God had settled him in his kingdom, making him "the head of the corner" which words, though they refer to David, there is no doubt of their having reference also to Christ, of whom David was a type; and of Christ then I shall rather interpret them.

"The stone which the builders refused," c.

1. The Church is sometimes in Scripture called a building the saints are the living stones, and Christ is "the chief Corner-stone."

2. But the Jews, the priests, to whom belonged the office of building the Church, refused this stone: "We will not have this man," c.

3. But "he is become the head of the corner." And whoever is not connected with him cannot be saved. 1. "This was the Lord's doing," c. That Christ became our salvation. 2. "And it is marvellous in our eyes." And so it ever must be, that Christ should die, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.

In commemoration of so great a work, a day should be set apart.

1. "This is the day," &c. Which without doubt was the day of the resurrection the Lord making it a high and holy day.

2. "We will be glad and rejoice," c. Adam's fall was a doleful day. On the day of Christ's resurrection we will be glad.

3. In the midst of our rejoicing we will pray, and sound forth Hosanna to the Son of David. This was done by the people on the entering of Christ into Jerusalem. It was the opinion of the Jews that this form of acclamation would be used before the Messiah.

The whole prophecy of Christ's coming, riding into Jerusalem in triumph, rejection, passion, &c., being thus explained, the prophet puts this into the mouths of the priests: -

"We have blessed you." All true happiness is under this King.

2. "Out of the house of the Lord," &c. From out of the Church.

3. "God is the Lord," &c. Revealed unto us his Son as the Light of the world.

4. "Bind the sacrifice with cords," &c. Be thankful to him, and meet in the Church to celebrate your thanksgivings.

V. The prophet concludes with a doxology.

1. "Thou art my God," I have taken thee for my portion.

2. "And I will praise thee" which he doubles: "Thou art my God, and I will exalt thee." Which repetition shows his ardent desire of evincing his gratitude.

And thus the psalmist concludes with the same exhortation with which he began the Psalm.

"O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good for his mercy endureth for ever." And let him that readeth, and him that heareth, say, Amen!

THIS is an uncommonly fine Psalm, and among the many noble ones it is one of the most noble. Its beauties are so many and so prominent that every reader, whose mind is at all influenced by spiritual things, must see, feel, and admire them.

The Psalms 118:22 verse, "The stone which the builders rejected is become the head stone of the corner," must have been a proverbial expression; but what gave birth to it I cannot find; but, like all other proverbs, it doubtless had its origin from some fact. One thing is evident from the Jewish doctors. The most enlightened of them understand this as a prophecy of the Messiah; and it was this general opinion, as well as the knowledge that the Spirit of prophecy thus intended it, that caused our Lord to apply it to himself, Matthew 21:42; nor did any of them attempt to dispute the propriety of the application.

Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 118". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/psalms-118.html. 1832.
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