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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 98

Barnes' Notes on the Whole BibleBarnes' Notes


This is entitled simply “A Psalm.” But who is its author is unknown. It is similar in its design and structure to the group of Psalms Ps. 95–100 in which it is found. Dr. Horsley, in accordance with the views which he has of the design of the group (see the Introduction to Psalms 97:1-12), supposes that this psalm refers to the restoration of the Jewish people. It is a psalm which would have been appropriate at the dedication of the temple after the Babylonian captivity, and may have been composed for that occasion. It is of so general a character, however, that it is appropriate to all times in the church. The psalm does not admit of a particular analysis.

Verse 1

O sing unto the Lord a new song - Compare Psalms 33:3; Psalms 96:1. “For he hath done marvelous things.” Things suited to excite wonder, or to fill the mind with astonishment. See Psalms 77:14; Psalms 86:10.

His right hand - The instrument by which we execute any purpose. Compare Isaiah 59:16; Isaiah 63:5.

And his holy arm - The arm of his holiness; that is, his arm put forth in a righteous cause, or vindicating that which is right.

Hath gotten him the victory - literally, “has worked salvation for him:” for himself, or in his own cause. The victory - the salvation - was really in defense of his own government; in maintaining his own authority against those who set themselves in opposition to it. What is here said may be applied to all that God does. It is really in his own cause, in order to maintain the principles of his own administration.

Verse 2

The Lord hath made known his salvation - See the notes at Isaiah 52:10. This does not mean that he had merely “proclaimed” his salvation, or his willingness to save, but that he had shown his salvation - his power to save - by some public act. What the particular act referred to here was, it is impossible now to ascertain. Such acts, however, have been often performed, as when he delivered his people out of Egypt; when he restored the Hebrews from the Babylonian captivity; and whenever he interposed in their behalf in times of danger. He has done it also in the gift of a Saviour; he does it in every revival of true religion; he does it in the salvation of a single sinner.

His righteousness - His righteous character; his faithfulness to his people. Whenever he interposes, it is in behalf of that which is right; and such interposition, therefore, is an illustration of his character as just. It is in this way we learn that his character is that of a just God.

Hath he openly showed - Margin, as in Hebrew, “revealed.” He has disclosed it, or made it manifest.

In the sight of the heathen - The nations; or, so that the nations could see it: that is, the nations outside of Pa estine. His acts were so public - so remarkable - that surrounding nations could learn what was his true character. Thus it was when he delivered his people from Egyptian bondage; and thus also frequently in the history of his people.

Verse 3

He hath remembered his mercy - Compare the notes at Luke 1:54-55 (note), Luke 1:72 (note), where this passage in the Psalms was not improbably referred to by Mary and Zacharias. The idea is, that God had called to mind his promise of mercy to his people; that he had not suffered it to pass out of his recollection; that he had kept his word.

And his truth - He has kept his promise; he has shown that he is a God of truth.

Toward the house of Israel - Toward his people.

All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God - This appears to have been quoted from Isaiah 52:10. See the notes at that passage. The resemblance in the language is so strong as to make it probable that the psalm was composed after the times of Isaiah, and not improbably to be used (as remarked above) in the dedication of the temple after the captivity. The whole psalm would be appropriate to celebrate that deliverance; while, at the same time, like the language in Isaiah, it would be adapted to celebrate a higher deliverance - under the Messiah - of which that was an emblem.

Verse 4

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord - By singing; by instruments of music. See the notes at Psalms 95:1.

All the earth - All lands. The event is of sufficient importance to be celebrated by all nations. It is a matter of universal exultation and joy.

Make a loud noise - The word used here - פצח pâtsach - means properly to break in pieces; then, to break forth, as a shout of triumph or joy, as if the joy could be no longer confined or repressed. See the notes at Isaiah 14:7. The word occurs only in the following places (besides that which is before us), in all of which it is rendered “break forth.” Isaiah 14:7; Isaiah 44:23; Isaiah 49:13; Isaiah 52:9; Isaiah 54:1; Isaiah 55:12 - (except in Micah 3:3, where it it is rendered “break”). It is expressive of irrepressible joy.

Rejoice and sing praise - This very combination of the words, “Break forth into joy, sing together” - the same words in Hebrew as here - occurs in Isaiah 52:9, showing, as above remarked, that the psalm was composed after the times of Isaiah, and probably had reference to the same event.

Verse 5

Sing unto the Lord with the harp - A song or psalm accompanied by the harp. On the harp. See the notes at Isaiah 5:12.

And the voice of a psalm - The voice in singing; a musical voice. Let it not be mere instrumental music, but let that be accompanied with the voice uttering intelligible sounds or words. The only proper use of instrumental music in the worship of God is to deepen the impression which the words are adapted to make; to secure a better influence of truth on the heart.

Verse 6

With trumpets - The word used here is uniformly rendered “trumpets” in the Scriptures. Numbers 10:2, Numbers 10:8-10; Numbers 31:6; et al. The trumpet was mainly employed for convening a public assembly for worship, or for assembling the hosts for battle. The original word - חצצרה chătsôtserâh - is supposed to have been designed to imitate “the broken pulse-like sound of the trumpet, like the Latin “taratantara.” So the German “trarara,” and the Arabic hadadera. The word used here was given to the long, straight trumpet.

And sound of cornet ... - The word here translated “cornet” is also usually rendered “trumpet,” Exodus 19:16, Exodus 19:19; Exodus 20:18; Leviticus 25:9; Joshua 6:4-6, Joshua 6:8-9, Joshua 6:13, Joshua 6:16, Joshua 6:20; et saepe. It is rendered “cornet” in 1 Chronicles 15:28; 2 Chronicles 15:14; Hosea 5:8. In the Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate it is here rendered “horn” - the meaning of “cornet.” The name - שׁפר shôphār - is supposed to have been given to this instrument from its clear and shrill sound, like the English name “clarion.” It was either made of horn, or similar to a horn - an instrument curved like a horn. The instrument was in frequent use among the Hebrews.

Verse 7

Let the sea roar, and the fulness thereof - See the notes at Psalms 96:11.

The world, and they that dwell therein - The habitable world - the land - in contradistinction from the sea. Let there be universal praise on the water and the land.

Verse 8

Let the floods clap their hands - The rivers. Let them join in the universal praise. As if conscious of their beauty, their grandeur, their usefulness; as if sensible that all this was conferred by God; as if rejoicing in the goodness of God manifested to them, and through them, let them unite in the universal praise. Compare the notes at Isaiah 55:12.

Let the hills be joyful together - The mountains - in view of the goodness of God toward them - crowning them with beauty - clothing them with sublimity and grandeur - let them also rejoice in God as “their” God. Let all nature thus join in praise.

Verse 9

Before the Lord, for he cometh to judge the earth ... - This verse is essentially the same as Psalms 96:13. See the notes at that verse. The psalm calls for universal praise. The very “reading” of the psalm - so joyous - so jubilant - so animated - so exulting - is suited to awaken the mind to praise; to rouse it to thankfulness; to fill it with joy. One cannot read the psalm without being a happier man; without being lifted above the world; without lofty views of God; without a feeling that he is worthy of this universal praise; without recognizing that we are in a world where the mind should be joyful; that we are under the dominion of a God whose reign should fill the mind with gladness.

Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Psalms 98". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/bnb/psalms-98.html. 1870.
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