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This psalm is destitute of title, and the occasion on which it was composed is not known. The style however, the subject, the masterly manner in which it is treated, and the spirit which pervades the whole, are those of David. It is the last of the six psalms which compose the great Hallel, or hymn of praise, sung at the Jewish festivals. There is no doubt that the Jews sang this and other psalms in responses, and many critics have amused themselves with endeavours to allot to the priests, the singers, and the people of Israel, the various recitative and choral parts. As this has not been done by the ancients, it is now a hopeless task; and any attempt of this kind would now be a waste of time.
Psalms 118:10 . All nations compassed me about. This can only be applied to the commencement of David’s reign, when all the surrounding nations, jealous of his rising fame, entered into a league against him, and he had no allies.
Psalms 118:12 . Like bees. Aristotle says that bees die when they leave their stings behind. This was true of David’s enemies, and of those who crucified the Lord of glory. It is true also of the last enemy: “Oh death, where is thy sting!” 1 Corinthians 15:55.
Psalms 118:13 . Thou hast thrust sore at me, that I might fall. He personifies all his enemies as combined in one purpose and confederacy. But what were all their efforts, while the Lord helped him.
Psalms 118:19 . Open to me the gates of righteousness. The hallowed courts of the Lord had been shut against him by Saul, and for these he had so often and so mournfully sighed. Psalm 63. 84. Here the Lord discovers his righteousness; and here devout men pay their vows, and obtain mercy and righteousness.
Psalms 118:22 . The stone which the builders refused. The author of historia scholastica, records a tradition among the Jews, that at the building of the second temple they dug up a stone which the builders several times rejected and laid aside. At length however they placed it as the head-stone of the corner. This circumstance gave rise to the national proverb. The Chaldee reads, “The boy David, whom the builders despised as the least of Jesse’s sons.” The rabbins with one consent apply the whole of the latter part of this psalm to the Messiah. This has been a fatal stone to the Jews. See Matthew 21:42.
Psalms 118:24 . This is the day which the Lord hath made. As Christ by his resurrection gave birth to a new creation, so he gave a new sabbath as a memorial of eternal rest, after his conflicts and victories.
Psalms 118:27 . Bind the sacrifice with cords. The Hebrews חג chag, signifies both a sacrifice and a festival, at which however victims were offered. Moses gave a special command to make horns at each corner of the brazen altar. The altar prefigured Christ, who went bound to offer his human nature on the altar of the cross, that all who approach there might be purged from dead works, and obtain righteousness and eternal life.
We here enter into a high region of gratitude and praise. It is a song of praise for recent mercies in a most signal victory, or course of victories obtained by David over his enemies. He invites the nation in three classes to join in this duty. Israel at large the house of Aaron and especially those who truly feared the Lord. He prompts them to the duty by four times repeating the consideration, that the Lord’s mercy endureth for ever. Man might claim covenant mercies on the ground of God’s free promises; but he has so frequently, yea daily failed in his obedience, that the divine favours are all of mercy, of mere mercy, from beginning to end.
The character of the faith here exercised in God and his promises, is bold and destitute of fear. A large portion of the prophetic spirit inundated his soul; and in his own conflicts and victories he foresaw the sufferings and glory of the Messiah, though unable to decipher all that grace would utter in his heart.
The more to awaken the gratitude of a whole nation, he recites the magnitude of the danger, which is found more at large in the eighty third psalm, where it appears that nine nations had conspired to cut him off, and to destroy the Zion of God. Four times he repeats that those nations had compassed him about numerously, and were infuriated as a disturbed hive. He could not trust in man, for the princes who had once shown him favour were now leagued against him. Therefore he would trust in the Lord alone, and not be afraid of man. Just so the Jews, the Romans, and the powers of darkness conspired against Jesus, the Lord’s anointed king; but being raised up from the dead he granted them a space for repentance, and then destroyed the murderers and burnt up their city. Mark well: David says, they are quenched as the fire of thorns. Malachi says, Behold the day cometh that shall burn as an oven, and the proud, yea, all that do wickedly shall be as stubble. Daniel says likewise, that the city shall be burned: Daniel 9:24-26: and he prophesied long after the first burning by Nebuchadnezzar.
The celebration of David’s victories was a day of the highest glory the Israelites ever saw. It laid the foundation of all their wealth and power. The voice of joy and salvation was heard in every house, and the name of their deliverer was extolled above the kings of the earth. Hence he who for seven years was rejected by the ten tribes after the death of Saul, besides his previous persecutions, was now made head of the corner. The elders of Israel therefore, and the officers of state, followed him into the sanctuary to give thanks to God. Hence the gates were summoned, and they flew open on his approach; even the gates of righteousness, for none but the righteous or the penitent had claims to enter there. Thus Christ having vanquished death, returned victorious to the Zion above. The everlasting doors were opened to receive him, and all heaven sung a new song when he went up to the throne above. Truly the right hand of the Lord doth valiantly; the right hand of the Lord bringeth wonderful things to pass. The gates of his city are continually open, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and their honour to it. Truly the gospel day is the day which the Lord hath made by his free and unmerited love, we will rejoice and be glad in it. We will sing hosanna, hosanna in the highest. This seems a happier word than the translation, ‘save now;’ and the multitude sung it as the Saviour entered into Jerusalem.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 118". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27