Bible Commentaries
Psalms 92

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & PsalmsHengstenberg's Commentary


Psalms 92

The Psalmist, or rather the church, in whose name he speaks, expresses readiness to praise God, Psalms 92:1-4, and then praises, proceeding to this duty, first, in general, the greatness of God in the annihilation of the wicked, Psalms 92:5-7. He next paints this more fully, Psalms 92:9-15, and also as intimately connected with it, the salvation of the righteous.

The Psalm divides into two strophes, each of seven verses, the first of which is divided by 4, 3, and the second by 3, 4. The first contains the introduction and the thesis; the second the development. In the middle, in Psalms 92:9, we have an intercalary verse, which makes itself known as such by its brevity, and which, like a high fortress, rules the second part, and brings together, in a few weighty words, its contents. The seven appears as the signature of the whole even in the names of God.

The theme is the same as in Psalms 37, Psalms 49, Psalms 73, God’s retributive righteousness, which brings destruction to the wicked and salvation to the righteous. But the way and manner of treatment are different. The Psalmist does not come forward here teaching and exhorting, as he does in Psalms 37 and Psalms 49, nor in view of the church contending and conquering, as in Psalms 73.; with holy skill he leads, as it were, the saints into the midst of the praise of God, and teaches them, by it, to gain the victory in their conflicts. The Psalm is fundamentally, as is manifest particularly from its conclusion, Psalms 73:16, of a consoling and soothing character; the consolation, however, is imparted in the form of the praise of God, to which the Psalmist exhorts the church.

According to the title, “a Psalm, a song of praise for the Sabbath-day,” the Psalm was intended for use in the public worship of God on the Sabbath, on which day, according to Leviticus 23:3, there was held “a holy convocation;” as Psalms 81 was intended to be used at the Passover. According to its contents, it is manifestly well adapted for such a use. On the Sabbath-day men ought “to rest from their own works,” in order to consider the works of God leisurely and together; comp. Psalms 92:5, “how great are thy works, O Lord.” Among these works, however, one of the greatest, not less great than the creation of the heavens and the earth, is his preservation of his church in the midst of the evil world. It is in accordance also with the title that the Psalm bears altogether a general character, and contains no notice of special relations. Finally, also, there is the fact, that the Psalm refers, in the first instance, to the whole church, while, at the same time, everything is designedly so arranged, as to render it suitable also to individuals. That it is the church, in the first instance, that speaks, is evident from the fourth verse, according to which, the speaker proposes to praise God with a multiplicity of instruments, from the “ our God,” in Psalms 92:14, and from the reference, in Psalms 92:10, to the fundamental passages which apply to Israel, and in Psalms 92:12-14, to the symbol of the Temple.

The Psalm, by its formal arrangement, is manifestly nearly related to Psalms 91—in both there are 16 verses, in both two strophes each of seven verses, divided by 3 and 4, and in both Jehovah occurs seven times. There is a resemblance also in other respects—the subject-matter and the tone, which is that of soft tenderness, never rising above a certain height—the connection between the application at once to the whole church and to individuals—and, finally, the agreement between Psalms 92:11 of the one Psalm, and Psalms 92:8 of the other.

That the Psalm before us was composed later than Psalms 73 is obvious from Psalms 92:6, when compared with Psalms 73:22. More exact information as to the date of composition, will be gathered from Psalms 93, which, with it, makes up one pair.

Verses 1-7

Ver. 1. It is good to praise the Lord, and to sing to thy name, O thou Most High. Ver. 2. To make known in the morning thy mercy, and thy faithfulness in the nights. Ver. 3. Upon the ten strings and upon the harp, with musing upon the guitar. Ver. 4. For thou makest me glad, O Lord, by thy doings, over the works of thy hands I rejoice. Ver. 5. How great are thy works, O Lord, very deep are thy thoughts. Ver. 6. A stupid man knows not this, a fool understands it not. Ver. 7. When the wicked spring up like grass, and all evil-doers flourish, it is the case that they shall be recompensed for ever and eternally.

The “(already) in the morning,” (comp. Psalms 88:13, Psalms 57:8, Psalms 5:3), and the “(still) in the nights” (comp. at Psalms 16:7), indicate the great zeal in praising God, for his mercy and truth, corresponding to the glory of the manifestations of these perfections. This general reference is undoubted. But, perhaps, the mention of morning and evening refers specially to the morning and evening sacrifice, and indicates that the Psalm was intended to be sung at the bringing forward of these on the Sabbath-day. This is all the more probable, as the third verse also refers manifestly to the public festival. The mercy and faithfulness of God are those properties which guarantee help to his people, and which are manifested in their deliverance. The circumstance that these are mentioned at the very beginning of the Psalm, shows that, even from the beginning, we have to do, not with a general praise of God, but with praise in some well-defined connection; and also sets aside the false constructions of Psalms 92:5. In Psalms 92:3, mention is first made generally of instruments of ten strings (ten instead of the bodily incorporated ten); for Psalms 92:1 reaches to the ten here; comp. Psalms 33, whose introduction is nearly allied to ours, and was probably modelled after it. Next we have especially the (ten stringed) harp, and the (ten stringed) guitar. On “musing upon the guitar,” comp. at Psalms 9:16. For the sake of the symmetry, the not very obvious term עלי is used. It denotes the musing upon the guitar as the substratum of the praise, the means by which it obtains a standing.

The mention of the mercy and the grace in the ( Psalms 92:2) 2d verse shows that at “the doing of God,” in Psalms 92:4 (comp. at Psalms 90:16), and “the works of his hands,” we are not at all to think of the creation of the heavens and earth, but singly and alone of his salvation-bringing doings on behalf of his people, the wonders of their deliverance.

The Psalmist begins in Psalms 92:5 the praise of God, which had been announced, and the motives to which had been mentioned in Psalms 92:1-3. What kind of works and thoughts the Psalmist means is particularly intimated in Psalms 92:7, which should be distinguished from Psalms 92:5-6 by inverted commas. It is the works and counsels of God for the deliverance of his people, a deliverance which is secured by the destruction of the wicked, their enemies; comp. Psalms 40:5, “thy thoughts towards us, nothing is to be compared to thee; I will declare and speak of them, they are not to be numbered.” The depth of the thoughts of God, in parallel with the greatness of his works, is not at all their darkness—this is only one consequence pointing to the basis, which is mentioned as such in Psalms 92:6—but their glory and inexhaustible riches, comp. Job 11:8, Isaiah 55:9, Romans 11:33.

This depth is seen especially in this, that the apparent end of the thoughts of God is so often seen to be the real beginning of their realization. When everything appears to be gone, and wickedness completely to triumph, the salvation of the righteous and the destruction of the wicked suddenly break forth.

On Psalms 92:6 comp. Psalms 73:22. Were God’s thoughts less deep and glorious, did he repay the wicked at every particular transgression immediately with his punishment, and did be bestow salvation immediately upon the righteous according to the canon which Job’s friends with their limited views had laid down, the government of the world would become plain even to the dark eye of ungodliness. But its depth makes it a secret, the understanding of which very often in times of conflict is withheld even from the pious, as is manifest from the example of Job and the author of the seventy-third Psalm, and in which there is always much that may be learned. He who has got a deep insight into this secret, and has seen that the conduct of God towards his people is always and only grace, even though often under the deepest covering, and that his conduct towards the wicked is always only wrath, even when they flourish and blossom, he alone can cry out, “O the depth of the riches,” &c., and to him these works of God appear greater and more glorious still than the works of creation.— On Psalms 92:7 comp. Psalms 37:38. The annihilation of the wicked comes into notice here as the basis of the deliverance of the righteous, which is the proper theme of the Psalm. Arnd: “Nothing except it be of God can stand, whether it be skill, or riches, or honour, or power. It rises and flourishes to appearance, but in the end it is only a thistle-bush and a noxious weed, good for nothing but the fire.”

Verse 8

Ver. 8. And thou art height in Eternity, O Lord. This verse forms the summit-point of the Psalm. God is the concrete and the personal height, = “he is holy,” in Psalms 22:3, never depth, as is imagined always by ungodliness, and in times of conflict also by the godly; the appearance of depth is rather the highest height; God is strongest when he appears to our short-sighted eye as weak. The man who can only hold fast this one truth, that God is eternally height, will never despond under the cross, and will laugh at the triumph of the wicked. Not to be able any longer to form this thought is the essence of despair. If God be still height to us, we may well be joyful and in comfort however low we lie. In Psalms 92:9-15 there follow the facts in which God shows himself as the eternal height.

Verses 9-15

Ver. 9. For behold thine enemies, O Lord, for behold thine enemies perish, all evil-doers are scattered. Ver. 10. And thou exaltest, like that of the buffalo, my horn, I sprinkle with fresh oil. Ver. 11. And mine eye looks upon mine enemies, of those who lift themselves up against me, evildoers, mine ears hear. Ver. 12. The righteous springs up like the palm-tree, like the cedar on Lebanon he grows. Ver. 13. They are planted in the house of the Lord, in the courts of our God they flourish. Ver. 14. They advance even in old age, they are full of sap and flourishing. Ver. 15. To shew that the Lord is righteous, my rock, in him there is no unrighteousness.

The “for” in Psalms 92:9 connects the whole strophe with Psalms 92:8. The “behold” points to the facts lying clearly before us. The enemies of the Lord are at the same time the enemies of the righteous man; and it is as such that they are mentioned here. O Lord, thou personal Height. They separate themselves,—they are driven asunder, in the state of separation still more incapable of hurting, comp. Job 4:11.

In Psalms 92:10 we cannot translate “but,” but only “ and thou exaltest.” The lifting up of the righteous stands in immediate connection with the ruin of the wicked, and is its consequence. “Thou exaltest,” looks back to Psalms 92:8. God as the Height makes his people high. “As the buffalo,” stands concisely for “as the horns of the buffalo on high,” or, “so that they are like the horns of the buffalo.” The fundamental passages are Numbers 23:22, Numbers 24:8, where it is said of Israel, “his strength is as of a unicorn,” and Deuteronomy 33:17, “the horns of the buffalo are his horns, with them he shall push the people together to the ends of the earth.” Parallel passages are Psalms 75:4, Psalms 75:10, Psalms 89:17. Thou exaltest my horn,—enablest me to rise up with spirit, with a sense of strength, and in an attitude of attack. In the second clause a number of arbitrary interpretations are set aside by the remark that בשמן בלל is the constant expression for “to pour out oil.” The verb is transitive, as it always is. The object, the head (comp. Psalms 23:5, “thou anointest my head with oil”), might very naturally be omitted, as it was only the head that was anointed, comp. at Psalms 23:5, Psalms 45:7. The “growing green” stands figuratively for “fresh,” as in Psalms 92:14; it is applied to the man whose condition is represented by the oil of joy. In the fresh oil, the verdant olive tree is as it were still seen, Psalms 52:8.

The doubled ב in Psalms 92:11 cannot be considered as pointing out the object. For it is only ראה , and not, at all הביט that occurs with ב in the sense of “to look upon anything with pleasure,” and שמע never stands with ב of the object: it would not even be suitable in this sense, for the Psalmist does not hear his enemies with pleasure, he hears of them. We must therefore take ב both times in the sense of “on.” It is only said in general that there is a looking and a hearing on, or in regard to, the enemies— what that is, there is no occasion for particularly describing. The “evil-doers” stand in apposition, equivalent to who or because they are evil-doers, and therefore subject to the wrath of God.

Psalms 92:12-14 gives an interpretation of the symbols of the sanctuary. The holy candlestick, the symbol of the Church of God, the people of the covenant (comp. Beitr. p. 645), had the form of a tree with flowers and fruit (comp. Bähr Symb. i. p. 446 ss.), for the purpose of denoting the joyful prosperity of the Church of God. Figures of flowers were found on the two curtains of the sanctuary and of the court of the tabernacle, Bähr, p. 376. Flowers and blossoms were specially the insignia of the priesthood to denote its joyful prosperity, Bähr, p. 365. The temple of Solomon was adorned in the interior with palms and opening blossoms (comp. Keil on the temple of Solomon, p. 143), as the symbol of the increase, the blossoming, and the prosperity of the kingdom of God. The reference to these symbols is all the more suitable, as the Psalm before us also refers in the first instance to the whole of the Church. What is said of it, however, applies also to every one of its individual members.

The subject in Psalms 92:13 is “the righteous” as resembling palms and cedars, or rather as the spiritual palms and cedars. Hitzig’s assertion, that we must rather, according to the adjectives in Psalms 92:14, understand that olive-trees are meant, is inconsistent with the reference to the symbols of the sanctuary. Even palms and cedars are always green. Schubert says of the former (Travels, ii. p. 138): “the palm-tree retains even in heat and drought its roof of foliage.”

The obvious synonymous parallel in Psalms 92:13 shows that we cannot translate with Luther: “Those who are planted in the house of our Lord shall flourish in the courts of Our God.” By the house of the Lord we can only understand the external sanctuary; in it, however, the servants of God dwell spiritually with him, and are cared for by him with paternal love; comp: Psalms 84:3: on the “courts” at the same passage. There lies at the bottom an abbreviated comparison: these spiritual trees flourish in the house of God as the natural trees when they are planted in a rich soil, Isaiah 5:1, or by rivers of water, Psalms 1:3.

Psalms 92:15 rests upon Deuteronomy 32:4, “the rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are judgment, a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” Believers must always at least agree in this ancient praise of the uprightness and faithfulness of God, even although many things often happen to lead them wrong. On the “uprightness” comp. at Psalms 25:8. God shows himself upright inasmuch as lie manifests himself rich in help to his people. The expression “my rock,” which refers to the divine unchangeableness, and veracity, and faithfulness (comp. at Psalms 18:2), at the fundamental passage equivalent to faithfulness (comp. thy faithfulness here in Psalms 92:2), stands in the second clause. in the same relation as “Jehovah” does in the first, to which it stands in several ways in strict reference, comp. at Psalms 18:2. “In whom there is no unrighteousness” corresponds to “upright.” The ו in ולא stands with a certain emphasis, comp. on this use of the copulative Thes. p. 396, c. c. Instead of the rare form צֹ?לתה (comp. Job 5:16), the Kri has the usual עַ?וְ?לָ?תָ?ה .

Bibliographical Information
Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 92". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.