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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

Psalms 68

Verses 1-35

This psalm is the Carmen seculare of the Hebrews, and far surpasses the Te Deum of the christians. It has justly been eulogized in the whole succession of theological composition,. The song bursts at once upon us in the boldest effusions of the heart.

Psalms 68:1 . Let God arise. This psalm was sung when David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness, and therefore with great propriety it commences with the words used by Moses on a similar occasion. Numbers 10:35.

Psalms 68:4 . By his name JAH. The self-existent God that judges for the widows, and shakes the earth, and rides on the wings of the wind. This name is repeated in Isaiah 12:2. See also Exodus 3:14.

Psalms 68:9 . A plentiful rain. Not manna, as in the Latin critics, but rain and snow. To confirm, to revive the drooping verdure, and refresh thine heritage when it was exhausted, and parched in the midst of summer.

Psalms 68:11 . The Lord gave the word, to Moses, whom he inspired to write martial odes, which the people sung; and good men published the law in the camp and in all the synagogues of the Hebrews. It was the same in the christian church. The Lord raised up a number of evangelical men, who imitated the apostles in their life and doctrine.

Psalms 68:13 . Though ye have lien, and slept, among the pots and bricks in Egypt, God gave you the enamelled and variegated wings of a dove, to escape away from danger, clad in Egyptian robes, and decorated with jewels of gold and precious stones.

Psalms 68:14 . White as snow in Salmon, when the Lord scattered before Joshua thirty one kings. The hill of Salmon is situate near the Jordan, in the tribe of Ephraim. Harmer mentions a Saracen army cut to pieces by a storm of hail, and sheets of ice. So now: the Almighty from Lebanon in the north, it would seem, brought a local scourge on the Canaanites, which not only destroyed the allied kings, but left a white carpet on this hill which watered the parched land.

Psalms 68:18 . Thou hast led captivity captive. See on Ephesians 4:8. Judges 5:0. When Sesostris king of Egypt had returned from his oriental expedition, and made his triumph at Memphis, his chariot was drawn by four captive kings. One of them kept his eye so constantly on the wheel, as to attract the notice of the conqueror. On being asked the reason, he replied, Sire, the rotations of the wheel console me in my present condition, for that part of the wheel which is now at the top is next in the dirt, and that part which is now in the dirt is next at the top. I am, sire, now in the dirt, but I may live to be at the top again. Sesostris soon restored the ingenious prince.

Psalms 68:31 . Ethiopia, the land of Cush, shall soon stretch out her hands to embrace the gospel. Eusebius says that the noble Eunuch whom Philip baptized, planted a church in this country. It was then the first of gentile nations that received the truth. A copy of the scriptures was translated into this language; and small churches still subsist there, notwithstanding all the bloody cruelties of mahomedan conquests. But the text is also understood of the conversion of the gentiles, as in the next words: Sing unto God ye kingdoms of the earth.


This psalm has high claims to poetic merit, and not less so to our consideration, from the divine characters of grace which it describes. David here shows his reverence for revelation by beginning with the words of Moses, when the ark was removed from one station to another, during the sojourn in the wilderness. Numbers 10:35. The holy prophets who claim obedience to their words, were themselves obedient.

We are here taught to regard the Lord God as a man of war, as captain of Israel, and the leader of his ark. So he appeared to Joshua: consequently, the Jordan fled backward, the walls of Jericho prostrated, the kings of Canaan were discomfited at his presence, and slain with hailstones in their retreat. But there were exceptions of a most instructive kind. When the Israelites went up to the mountains without the Lord, they were slain, Numbers 10:40; and when they retreated from Ai, because of Achan’s sin; also when the ark was conducted by the sons of Eli. Learn then, oh my soul, to serve the Lord in holiness, or he will be more terrible to thee than to his open foes. But serve him with fidelity, and all thy foes shall vanish as the smoke. God so terrible to the incorrigible is unchangeable, as his name JAH implies; he is the orphan’s father, and the widow’s friend. Though he slew the murmurers in the desert, yet he placed their children in rich lots of land, and made them heads of great houses. His judgments often have mercy for their ultimate objects.

The first six verses being sung when the levites took up the ark, from the seventh to the fourteenth were sung as they began the march. Oh God, when thou wentest forth, Sinai itself was moved at thy presence. Christ in like manner shook the earth by the preaching of the gospel; and as a multitude of prophets sung the praises of Israel’s God, so a great number of apostles and apostolic men published the gospel beyond the extent of the Roman empire. And the Lord who raised up the Israelites from the potteries of Egypt to great wealth, raised up the christian church to inherit the earth, and be heirs of heaven.

God fought for the Israelites by great hailstones which fell from heaven. When the Almighty scattered kings, it was white in summer with snow or hail on the top of mount Salmon. The apostrophe to the hills is very fine. Why leap ye, ye high hills? Why leap ye against the rocky hills of Zion? It is not you, but this mountain which the Lord hath chosen. He has equalled it to Sinai. He ascended from Sinai with myriads, he has led captivity captive. The Egyptians who enslaved us lay dead at our feet. With the whole host of his cherubim he has alighted on Zion, after riding on the wings of the wind, and making darkness his pavilion, and flames of fire the banners of his host. God has made this place the seat of empire, and the sanctuary of all the earth. So Christ has led captive sin, Satan, and death, to whom we had been captives. He spoiled principalities on the cross, and made a show of them openly. The Lord Jesus also ascended up on high, and gave qualifications to men to be apostles, evangelists, and prophets; yea, he gave gifts to the rebellious gentiles also, that the Lord God might dwell among them for ever.

The Lord having made Zion the seat of his glory, the psalmist proceeds next, highly illumined with the Spirit, to speak of the glory of the latter day, when God should strike through the hairy scalp of his enemies. The barbarous custom of carrying scalps for a reward is undoubtedly of the earliest antiquity, though it here implies God’s striking the head of his enemies. Having vanquished all his foes, he shall then bring in the princes of Egypt. Ethiopia shall soon follow; and the Jews by Ethiopia meant all of Africa, except Lybia which is now called Tripoli, Tunis, and Barbary. Sing then to the Lord, ye kingdoms of the earth, ye shall soon become the kingdoms of our God, and of his Christ. Thus unto him gave all the prophets witness.

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Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 68". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.