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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 71

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary



The Palestinian collectors of the sacred songs of Israel found no traditional inscription to this psalm, and left it without conjecture of its authorship. In Alexandria it appears to have been attributed to David, but with the addition that it had some peculiar connection with the son of Jonadab and the first exiles. This connection, together with the resemblance between this psalm and Jeremiah’s writings, has led many critics to ascribe it to that prophet, a conjecture also borne out by the fact that it is, in great part, an adaptation of other psalms, chiefly 22, 31, 35, and 40, since such dependence on older writings is a prominent feature in Jeremiah. His life of danger and adventure, his early consecration to his office, the high position which he took at one time in the councils of the nation, all agree with what the author of this psalm says of himself. (Comp. Psalms 71:6, with Jeremiah 1:5, and see Note, Psalms 71:21.) Still it is quite as likely that we have here another of those hymns composed, or, more properly speaking, in this case, arranged, to express not individual feeling and experience, but that of suffering Israel. (See Note, Psalms 71:6; Psalms 71:20.) In a cento of passages from older compositions the rhythm is necessarily irregular.

Verses 1-3

(1-3) These verses are borrowed, with some verbal alterations, from Psalms 31:1-3, where see Note.

Verse 3

(3) Rock.—Better, cliff (Hebrew selah), to distinguish it from tsûr, above.

Verses 4-6

(4-6) These verses are manifestly founded on Psalms 31:8-10; but the variations are more marked than usual, and indicate a definite purpose of adaptation rather than copying.

Verse 5

(5) My hope.—Comp. Jeremiah 14:8; Jeremiah 1:7. Also in New Testament, 1 Timothy 1:1, “The Lord Jesus Christ our hope.” Shakespeare, with his fine ear for scriptural expressions, caught this.

“And God shall be my hope, my stay.”

“God, our hope, shall succour us.”—2 Henry VI.

Verse 6

(6) Took me out.—Comp. Psalms 22:10. The Hebrew is not the same, but the Authorised Version renders by the same word, treating it as a transitive participle of a word that elsewhere only means to go through, a doubtful expedient. The LXX. (and Vulg.) have “protector,” σκεπαστἠς, which is probably an error for ἐκσπαστἠς (following Psalms 22:10, ἐκσπάσας), which would support the rendering, “he that severed me,” a rendering for other reasons probable.

This allusion to birth and retrospect of life from the earliest infancy, is not unsuitable to Israel personified as an individual, or rather it suits both the individual and the community of which he is the mouthpiece. So it has often been in application treated as an epitome of the history of the Christian Church.

Verse 7

(7) A wonderi.e., not a miracle of preservation, but a monster. Though men point at him as something to be avoided or mocked, God is his refuge.

Verses 9-11

(9-11) This piece may be compared with Psalms 41:6-8. The formal “saying” (Psalms 71:11), introducing a quotation, is an indication of a late date, the early literature employing no signs of quotation. (See, e.g., Psalms 68:12; Psalms 68:26.)

Verses 12-13

(12, 13) These verses recall Psalms 22:11; Psalms 35:4; Psalms 35:26; Psalms 38:21-22; Psalms 40:13-14.

Verse 13

(13) Hurt.—Literally, evil.

Verse 15

(15) Comp. Psalms 40:5, which indicates the meaning here. Mere reminiscence must give place to actual calculation, which too must fail before the sense of Divine interference in his favour.

Verse 16

(16) I will go . . .—Rather, I will come with the Lord Jehovah’s mighty deeds, i.e., come with the tale of them (as last verse) and praise of them into the Temple. (Comp. Psalms 5:7; Psalms 66:13.)

Verse 18

(18) Now also when.—Literally, yea, even to old age and grey hairs. Psalms 129:1 shows that this may be a national as well as an individual prayer.

Thy strength.—Literally, thine arm, the symbol of power. (Comp. Isaiah 52:10; Isaiah 53:1, &c)

Unto this generation.—Literally, to a generation, explained by the next clause to mean, to the coming generation.

Verse 19

(19) Very high.—Literally, to the height, i.e., to the heavens, as in Psalms 36:5; Psalms 57:10. The clauses should be arranged, Thy righteousness also, O God, to the height—Thou who doest great things—God, who is like unto thee? (Comp. Exodus 15:11.)

Verse 20

(20) Quicken me.—According to the written text, quicken us, an indication that the psalm is a hymn for congregational use. As for the change from singular to plural, that is common enough.

Depths . . .—Abysses, properly of water. (See Psalms 33:7.) Perhaps here with thought of the waters on which the earth was supposed to rest. If so, the image is the common one of a “sea of trouble.”

Verse 21

(21) Comfort me on every side.—Literally, either thou wilt compass with comfort, or wilt turn with comfort. The LXX. adopts the latter.

Verse 22

(22) With the psaltery.—See Psalms 57:8, Note.

Verse 23

(23) My lips shall . . .—Rather, my lips shall sing while I play to thee, i.e., a hymn should accompany the harp. There is, therefore, no thought of the union of the bodily and spiritual powers in praise of God, though it is natural the verse should have suggested such an interpretation to the Fathers; and indeed the thought of the poet, if we read the whole psalm, with its retrospect of life, is a wish—

“That mind and soul according well,
May make one music as before,
But vaster.”

Verse 24

(24) My tongue.—Comp. this with the conclusion of Psalms 35:0

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Psalms 71". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/psalms-71.html. 1905.
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