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Bible Commentaries

Clarke's Commentary

Psalms 99

Verse 1

The empire of God in the world and the Church, 1, 2.

He ought to be praised, 3.

Justice and judgment are his chief glory, 4.

He should be worshipped as among the saints of old, whom he

graciously answered and saved, 5-8.

Exalt him because he is holy, 9.


The Hebrew and Chaldee have no title; all the versions but the Chaldee attribute it to David. The Syriac says it concerns "the slaughter of the Midianites which Moses and the children of Israel had taken captive; and is a prophecy concerning the glory of the kingdom of Christ." But the mention of Samuel shows that it cannot be referred to the time of Moses. Calmet thinks that it was sung at the dedication of the city, or of the second temple, after the return from the Babylonish captivity. Eight of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS. join it to the preceding psalm.

Verse Psalms 99:1. The Lord reignethPsalms 97:1.

Let the people tremble — He will establish his kingdom in spite of his enemies; let those who oppose him tremble for the consequences.

He sitteth between the cherubims — This is in reference to the ark, at each end of which was a cherub of glory; and the shechinah, or symbol of the Divine Presence, appeared on the lid of the ark, called also the mercy-seat, between the cherubim. Sitting between the cherubim implies God's graciousness and mercy. While then, in his reign, he was terrible to sinners, he is on the throne of grace to all who fear, love, and obey him. Though this symbol were not in the second temple, yet the Divine Being might very well be thus denominated, because it had become one of his titles, he having thus appeared under the tabernacle and first temple.

Verse 2

Verse Psalms 99:2. The Lord is great in Zion — It is among his own worshippers that he has manifested his power and glory in an especial manner. There he is known, and there he is worthily magnified.

Verse 3

Verse Psalms 99:3. Let them praise thy great and terrible name — Let them confess thee to be great and terrible: let them tremble before thee.

For it is holy.קדוש הוא kadosh hu. As this not only ends this verse but the fifth also, and in effect the ninth, it seems to be a species of chorus which was sung in a very solemn manner at the conclusion of each of these parts. His holiness-the immaculate purity of his nature, was the reason why he should be exalted, praised, and worshipped.

Verse 4

Verse Psalms 99:4. The king's strength — If this Psalm were written by David, he must mean by it that he was God's vicegerent or deputy, and that, even as king, God was his strength, and the pattern according to which equity, judgment, and righteousness should be executed in Jacob.

Verse 5

Verse Psalms 99:5. Worship at his footstool — Probably meaning the ark on which the Divine glory was manifested. Sometimes the earth is called God's footstool, Matthew 5:35; Isaiah 66:1; sometimes Jerusalem; sometimes the temple, Lamentations 2:1; sometimes the tabernacle, Psalms 32:7; and sometimes the ark, 1 Chronicles 28:2. The Israelites, when they worshipped, turned their faces toward the ark, because that was the place where was the symbol of the Divine Presence.

For he is holy. — The burden chanted by the chorus.

Verse 6

Verse Psalms 99:6. Moses and Aaron — As Moses and Aaron among the priests, and as Samuel among the prophets, worshipped God in humility, gratitude, and the spirit of obedience, and received the strongest tokens of the Divine favour; so worship ye the Lord, that he may bless, support, and save you. Moses was properly the priest of the Hebrews before Aaron and his family were appointed to that office.

Verse 7

Verse Psalms 99:7. He spake unto them in the cloudy pillar — That is, he directed all their operations, marchings, and encampments by this cloudy pillar. See Exodus 33:9.

They kept his testimonies — Do ye the same, and God will be your portion as he was theirs.

Verse 8

Verse Psalms 99:8. Thou - forgavest them — When the people had sinned, and wrath was about to descend on them, Moses and Aaron interceded for them, and they were not destroyed.

Tookest vengeance of their inventions. — God spared them, but showed his displeasure at their misdoings. He chastised, but did not consume them. This is amply proved in the history of this people.

Verse 9

Verse Psalms 99:9. Worship at his holy hill — Worship him publicly in the temple.

For the Lord our God is holy. — The words of the chorus; as in the third and fifth verses.

There are two parts in this Psalm: -

I. A description of the kingdom of God.

1. From the majesty and terror of it against his enemies, Psalms 99:1-3.

2. From its equity in the execution of judgment and justice, Psalms 99:4.

3. From his patience and clemency in giving audience to his servants, Psalms 99:6-8.

II. A demand of praise and honour of all that acknowledge him for their King, begun at the third verse, repeated at the fifth, and continued in the last. The Psalm contains a prophecy of the kingdom of Christ, and its glory.

I. 1. The terror, power, and majesty of this kingdom: "The Lord reigneth." 1. He bids defiance to his enemies: "Let the people tremble." 2. "He sitteth between the cherubim." He is always present with his people; they need not fear, though the earth be moved. 3. "He is great in Zion." More potent and higher than all people. 4. "His name is great and terrible." His enemies have every thing to fear, while his friends have every thing to hope.

2. The psalmist describes this kingdom, from its justice and equity. 1. "He loveth judgment." This is one of his perfections. 2. "He establishes equity." Gives just and equal laws to all. 3. "He executes judgment in Jacob." None of his followers shall live without law; they are obedient children, living according to his will. 4. And therefore he requires them to exalt and adore him. 5. They are to worship at his foot-stool - all their approaches are to be made in the deepest reverence, with the truest self-abasement. 6. "For he is holy;" and he requires all his followers to be holy also.

3. He describes it from the mercy and clemency of the ruler. 1. He showed his mercy and kindness to Moses, Aaron, and Samuel, as intercessors for the people. "They called upon God," for themselves and for the people; "and he answered them." 1. See the intercession of Moses, Exodus 32:31; 2. Of Aaron, Numbers 16:46-48. 3. Of Samuel, 1 Samuel 7:5; 1 Samuel 7:9-10. 4. He spake to Moses, Exodus 33:8-9; Exodus 33:11; and to Aaron, Numbers 12:5-8.

And now he adds the reason why he heard them: -

1. "They kept his testimonies." Those precepts that were common to all others.

2. "And the ordinances that he gave them." As public persons who were to rule in Church and state.

And that it was a great mercy that the Lord heard them, the prophet acknowledges by this apostrophe -

1. "Thou answeredst them, O Lord our God." Which the history shows.

2. "Thou forgavest them;" that is, the people for whom they prayed: for in Hebrew the relative is often put without an antecedent.

3. "Thou tookest vengeance of their inventions." The golden calf was broken to pieces, Exodus 32:20; and the false gods were put away 1 Samuel 7:3-4. The people were not consumed, though their sin was in a certain manner visited upon them. See Numbers 14:23; Numbers 14:30; Numbers 20:12.

II. The psalmist concludes with a demand of praise to this kind God.

1. "Exalt the Lord." Show that he is high, holy, just, good, and kind.

2. "Worship at his holy hill." Attend his public worship, and show a godly example in this way to all others. He who is indifferent about the public worship of God is generally not less so in private devotion.

3. The reason for all this is: "The Lord our God is holy." He requires this worship because it is a chief means by which he communicates his holiness to his followers. Without this holiness there is no happiness here, and without it none shall ever see God. Get holiness, that you may get happiness here, and heaven hereafter.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Psalms 99". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/acc/psalms-99.html. 1832.