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Bible Commentaries

Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms

Psalms 93

Psalms 93

The might of the world threatens to shake the earth, and, with it, the kingdom of God. But the Psalmist places, in opposition to its blustering rage, the Lord, whom he beholds coming “in his kingdom,” clothed with majesty, girt with strength,—in opposition to their new throne, the eternal throne of the Lord, Psalms 93:1-2. The might of the world roars like the tumultuous sea, but the Lord on high is more glorious than the sea with its swelling waves, Psalms 93:3-4. The sum is in Psalms 93:5: the Lord’s promises are to be depended upon, he will always protect his house.

The reference, which it is impossible not to notice, in which “glorious in the height is the Lord,” in Psalms 93:4, stands to “thou art height in eternity, O Lord,” in Psalms 92:8, the kernel and middle point of that whole Psalm, has already led commentators to notice a near connection with Psalms 92. Next, there is “the tautological nature of the language, the sense being spread over two clauses, the first of which sinks down to the vocative of Jehovah “ (Hitzig), in Psalms 93:3, to be compared with Psalms 92:9. We have still further the circumstance, that the number five of the verses of our Psalm, the signature of the half makes up, with the fifteen of Psalms 92, the number 20; and that the five times repeated Jehovah (Jehovah is spoken of and addressed in alternate verses), makes up, with the seven repetitions of Psalms 92, the number 12. These facts show that our Psalms form one pair of Psalms, an idea which is decidedly favoured by the contents; both Psalms minister consolation to the church, exposed to danger by the might of the world.

In regard to the date of composition, our Psalm presupposes a powerful pressure from the might of the world against the kingdom of God, and, consequently, cannot be dated earlier than the Assyrian catastrophe. And that we cannot descend later than this era is evident from the very apparent dependence of the Psalm upon Psalms 46. The temple appears in Psalms 93:5 as threatened. The result here obtained applies equally, not only to Psalms 92, but also to Psalms 91; comp. the introduction to Psalms 92. More exact particulars can be obtained, wherever they are generally possible, only out of the following Psalms.

In reference to the contents, Calvin: “The might of God is set forth as the ground of confidence, whereas, generally, fear and trembling arise from it, so that we do not sufficiently clothe God with his might, but rob him of his dominion.”

Verses 1-2

Ver. 1. The Lord reigneth, he clotheth himself with majesty, he clothed himself, the Lord girdeth himself with power, therefore the earth stands firm, it does not move. Ver. 2. Thy throne is firmly grounded of old, from eternity thou art.—“The Lord reigneth,” in Psalms 93:1, alludes to the form used at the proclamation of the commencement of the reign of earthly sovereigns, comp. 2 Samuel 15:10, 1 Kings 1:11, 1 Kings 1:13, 2 Kings 9:13. This allusion makes it plain that the language does not apply to the constant government of God, but to a new glorious manifestation of his dominion, as it were a new ascent of the throne; Michaelis correctly: rex factus est. We are led to the same result, also, by the parallel passages, Psalms 96:10, Psalms 97:1, Psalms 99:1, where the same form occurs; the language in all these passages refers to the coming of the Lord in his kingdom. In like manner, in Isaiah 24:23, where the discourse is likewise of the kingdom of glory: “the moon is ashamed, and the sun is ashamed, for the Lord of hosts reigns on mount Sion, and at Jerusalem, and before his ancients there in glory,” comp. Obad. Obadiah 1:21, Zechariah 14:9, and especially Revelation 11:17, Revelation 19:6. Besides this, the התאזר , “he girds himself,” not “he is girded,” can only be referred to a future manifestation of the glory of God. In face, therefore, of the high-handed proclamation of the might of the world, that it shall now, more than ever, lord it over the earth and the kingdom of God, in face of the cry, “the Assyrian or the Babylonian reigneth,” the Psalmist raises his cry, “Jehovah reigneth;” he announces that the dominion of the Lord, so far from being overthrown by such feeble onsets, is now about, for the first time, to become manifest in its full glory. His cry, “the Lord reigneth,” found the beginning of its verification at the destruction of Babylon and the deliverance of Israel; as to its full import, however, it is Messianic,—in Christ the Lord has truly come to reign, and he shall reign still more gloriously in the future; comp. the above mentioned passages in Rev. This cry, “the Lord reigneth,” his servants always raise still against the fierce onsets of the world against the church, with which it gains nothing more than that it thereby calls forth a new glorious revelation of his dominion. It is the holy war-cry of the church in face of the world. The remarks of Calvin upon this are well deserving of consideration: “All acknowledge with the mouth what the prophet here teaches, but how few place this shield, as is meet, in front of the might of the world, so that they fear nothing, be it ever so terrible.” The preterites are explained by the circumstance, that the Psalmist, as a seer, has the future before his eyes. He sees, with joy, how the Lord enters upon his kingdom, makes use of the rod of majesty, and girds on the sword of strength, in face of the haughty world. The לבש is “to put on,” as in Isaiah 51:9. The majesty with which the Lord clothes himself, forms the opposition, the antidote against the majesty and pride of the world; comp. Psalms 89:9, Psalms 46:4. The second לבש cannot be referred to the preceding one: majesty he puts on, the Lord puts on. For, in this case, there would be nothing but a flat repetition. And we cannot construe: the Lord puts on power, he is girded (therewith), for the עז is connected by the accusative with התאזר . The easiest plan is to suppose that the Psalmist begins the sentence, “he puts on strength” (comp. the לבש עז in Isaiah 51:9), and then suddenly changes it, because the strength corresponding to the sword appears still better as a girdle (comp. at Psalms 45:3, Psalms 76:10); he puts on—girds on strength. The אף also, deduces from goes before the consequence surely to be expected: Mich. unde etiam. The globe (comp. on תבל at Psalms 90:2), together with the kingdom of God upon it, is, by the plunderers of the world, shaken to its deepest foundations; comp. Psalms 46:2-3, Psalms 46:6. But by the coming of the Lord in his kingdom it shall be again established. He will display, in preserving it, the same omnipotence which he displayed in creating it; comp. Psalms 104:5, “he has founded the earth, it moves not for ever.” This allusion to creation is peculiarly suitable in a hymn which was intended to be used on the Sabbath-day. The beginning and the end of the verse occur word for word again in Psalms 96:10. On the clause, “it shall not move,” comp. Psalms 46:5.

In Psalms 93:2 the Psalmist places the newly erected throne of wickedness, Psalms 94:20, over against the eternal throne of God, which shall survive the former as long as it has preceded it. The נכון is “he establishes,” “he grounds firm;” comp. 2 Samuel 7:13, 2 Samuel 7:16, 1 Kings 2:45. The מאז , is properly “from there,” or “then,” next “from of old;” Proverbs 8:22, Isaiah 48:3, Isaiah 48:5, Isaiah 48:7. The throne of wickedness has no “then;” it is of yesterday, like a mushroom sprung out of the earth. The eternity is not the bare but the omnipotent eternity, comp. at Psalms 90:2. He who is in this way the first is also the last, Isaiah 41:4, Isaiah 44:6, Revelation 1:17; he remains when all the powers of the earth fall in the dust.

Verses 3-4

Ver. 3. The floods lift up, O Lord, the floods lift up their voice, the floods lift up their roaring noise. Ver. 4. Than the voices of many waters, than the glorious waves of the sea, more glorious in the height is the Lord.

There can be no doubt that the sea comes into notice here as the symbol of worldly power. There was no need, as Maurer desiderates, of its being expressly marked out as such. For it is the standing emblem, comp. at Psalms 89:9, and also Psalms 107:23 ss.; and in our Psalm, the design of which is to impart consolation in the conflicts occasioned by the threatening power of the world, it is everywhere before the eye of the Psalmist. The fundamental passage here, also, is Psalms 46. By the floods are meant the waters of the sea; comp. Jonah 2:4, and probably, also, Psalms 24:2, where the floods are parallel with the seas. That we are here chiefly to think of these is obvious, from the circumstance, that the sea is the usual symbol of the tumultuous mass of nations, and, also from the ( Psalms 93:4) 4th verse, where the Psalmist expressly explains, that by the “many glorious waters,” = “floods” in Psalms 93:3, are to be understood “the waves of the sea.” The דכי properly the “collision of the waves,” corresponds to the משברים in Psalms 93:4, the “breakers.” On “the Lord in majesty is more glorious than the voice,” &c., in Psalms 93:4, comp. “more glorious art thou than mountains of prey,” in Psalms 76:4. The voice of the floods is thus expressly brought forward with reference to the voice of the Lord, the thunder, as the outward proof of his glory, infinitely exalted above that of the sea; comp. Psalms 29. As the thunder sounds louder than the loudest noise of the sea, so the Lord is infinitely more glorious than the sea, infinitely more glorious than the power of the world symbolized by it; [Note: The symbolical action of our Lord, Mark 4:37 ss. depends on passages such as the one now before us.] and that nation, whose God is the Lord, would be foolish indeed, if it were to tremble before the might of the world. It requires only to open its ear to the thunder to be comforted.

Verse 5

Ver. 5. Thy testimonies are very surely to be depended upon, holiness, O Lord, becomes thy house for ever.

On “the testimony” and “the testimonies” of the Lord, as expressive of the Mosaic Law, compare at the fundamental passage, Psalms 19:7, “the testimony of the Lord is sure,” Psalms 25:10, Psalms 60 Title, Psalms 80 Title, Psalms 119:24. Here, according to the connection, we can only think of the promises of the law, comp. Psalms 94:12, “blessed is the man Whom thou instructest and teachest out of thy law,” by which assurance is given to his people of everlasting existence and of deliverance from all troubles. It follows from the glory of the Lord, as described in Psalms 93:1-4, that these promises are unconditionally sure. The correct interpretation which many commentators have failed to see, (Luther: thy word is right doctrine), lies at the foundation of the passages in the Apocalypse, Revelation 19:9, Revelation 21:5, Revelation 22:6. The Berleb. Bible: “David in this gives as it were a reproof to the soul that it does not sufficiently put faith in the testimonies which God has given it, as to how he himself shall lead it, as if he said: how often has he not assured us that those who commit themselves to him, shall suffer no want? These testimonies are well worth being confided in, and yet we trust them not.” The holiness which becomes the house of such a God, (comp. Psalms 33:1), must be preserved for it by himself. It is becoming in God that he take care that it be not desecrated by impious hand, comp, Psalms 74, Psalms 79:1. [Note: Amyrald. “Thy house shall by thy sacred august presence remain for ever undefiled, nor shall it be violated or polluted by the insolence of thine enemies.”] He can at times in punishment of the sins of his people give it up to be laid waste by the ungodly world, but he must always see to it that it rise like a Phoenix again upon the ashes, so that its holiness is again restored to it. And he has seen to this. In room of the first house destroyed by the Chaldeans, there arose the second; and the second was not destroyed till it had become a mere shell without a kernel, and a glorious new erection of the house of God had come into life in the Christian Church. The world did not destroy it; but God himself took down the poor provisional building, when the proper one was completed; and this last one shall preserve its sanctity at all times in spite of all the assaults of the destruction loving world. The fundamental passage is Psalms 23:6: “I dwell in the house of the Lord for ever,” לארך ימים , properly “for length of days.” The import in both passages is essentially the same. For the house on behalf of whose preservation the Psalmist here expresses his confident hope is the house where the Lord dwells with his people and they with him; and it comes into view only in connection with this property. The preservation of the house for its own sake is not what is spoken of, but only in so far as it is the seat of the church; it is therefore the preservation of the Church that lies near the Psalmist’s heart. The common translation is: the maintenance of holiness becomes thy house, it is becoming that it should be held holy by us. By this mis-translation the point of the Psalm is destroyed. There are to be urged against it: that the thought in the connection is wholly a strange one,—the design of the Psalm is evidently to impart confident reliance on the protection of the Lord in oppressions from the world—that in Psalms 93, Psalms 92, and even in Psalms 91, the subject spoken of is what God does for his people, not what they should do for him; besides this we have the analogous conclusion in Psalms 92, the parallelism, the fundamental passage Psalms 23:6, and also “the for length of days,” and finally the קדש which does not signify maintenance of holiness but holiness.

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Hengstenberg, Ernst. "Commentary on Psalms 93". Hengstenberg on John, Revelation, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel & Psalms.