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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Psalms 108

After the return from exile described in the previous psalm, the remnant will multiply greatly (Isa 49:19-21; cf. Eze 36:37-38). The distress in which the remnant has been in the great tribulation will be answered by the LORD by giving Israel the full inheritance as He promised it to Abraham (Gen 15:18-21). Psa 108:7b-9 in this psalm describe the expansion of Israel’s borders to the river Euphrates to accommodate this population growth.

This psalm is composed of the end of Psalm 57 (Psa 108:1-5; Psa 57:7-11) and the end of Psalm 60 (Psa 108:6-13; Psa 60:5-12). The fact that the two parts are brought together here in one psalm means that there is a connection between the two parts. The first part is a song of praise to God for His lovingkindness and faithfulness (Psa 108:4). In the second part, we hear God’s response to it, which He gives in His sanctuary. He declares His dominion over all nations, a right He will claim through His people (Psa 108:13). The result is that His glory will be above all the earth, which the remnant, His beloved, have asked for (Psa 108:5-6).

Both Psalm 57 and Psalm 60, from which this ‘mosaic’ psalm is composed, are written by David. There is a difference, however: in Psalm 57 we read “Lord”, Adonai (Psa 57:9), while Psalm 108 speaks of “LORD”, Yahweh (Psa 108:3).

Psalm 57 is in the second book of psalms. That book describes that the remnant has fled abroad and is in exile, as it were. Therefore, the name LORD, Yahweh, is missing. Psalm 108 is in the fifth book of psalms. In it we see the remnant who have returned to the promised land where the LORD is present. Therefore, it says here LORD, Yahweh, instead of Lord, Adonai.

Psalm 57 and Psalm 60 speak of the ways of God, with the first half of each psalm containing the exercises and trials, and the second half the results. Psalm 108 takes from both psalms only the second half because in this ‘Deuteronomy-psalm’ the experiences of the wilderness journey, the trials, are all over. The remnant is now looking forward to the realm of peace.

Verses 1-6

Praise and Prayer

For “a Song” (Psa 108:1a) see at Psalm 65:1 and Psalm 92:1.

For “a Psalm of David” see at Psalm 3:1.

This is the first psalm of the fifteen psalms in this fifth book of Psalms that have David’s name in the heading.

After contemplating the many lovingkindnesses of the LORD about which the psalmist wrote in the previous psalm (Psa 107:43), the heart has come to rest (Psa 108:1b). His “heart is steadfast”, it is ready, it is able to sing, yes, sing praises to the glory of God. The glory [“my soul” is literally “my glory”] he has received from God as king over His people is not to his own glory, but is to the glory of God. It is the response to the exhortation in Psalm 107 to praise the LORD because of His lovingkindness and faithfulness. He proceeds to do so with a song of praise (Psa 108:3) accompanied by harp and lyre (Psa 108:2).

A new day or a new period has begun in his life (Psa 108:2). Psalm 57 has two sections: one is about ‘going to sleep’ (Psa 57:2-7) and one is about ‘waking up’ (Psa 57:8-11). As mentioned, Psalm 108 only takes up the second part, which is the part about the dawn, a new day. The night of exile is over, “the sun of righteousness” has risen (Mal 4:2), the new day has arrived.

He wants to begin that new day, that new period, with a song accompanied by “harp and lyre”. He speaks to these instruments to awake, to break their silence. During the exile, the remnant hung their harps on the willows (Psa 137:2). But that time has passed, and now they can make their euphonious tones heard. With this, he wants to, as it were, “awaken the dawn”. It is a warm welcome to the shining morning light of the new day (Pro 4:18).

That new day dawns not only in his life and for his people, but also for the nations (Psa 108:3; Mal 1:11). The thanksgiving to the LORD must also sound “among the peoples”. The praises he sings to the LORD must also be heard “among the nations” (cf. Eze 36:35-36). This will be so in the realm of peace.

The occasion for these expressions of joy – shown by the word “for” – are God’s “lovingkindness” and “truth” (Psa 108:4). The lovingkindness of God is “great”, that is, extensive and high. It does not only go to the heavens, but “above the heavens”. The psalmist comes to this conclusion because he considered the lovingkindnesses of the LORD (Psa 107:43). Then he discovered that the LORD’s lovingkindness is so great that it is higher than the heavens. We see this lovingkindness in the Lord Jesus. He “ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things” (Eph 4:10).

Directly attached to His lovingkindness is again His truth. His lovingkindness always goes together with His truth, with faithfulness to His truth. His truth reaches to the skies or the clouds. The clouds are ruled by Him. They bring blessing where He wants and judgment where it is needed.

From the assurance of the exaltedness of God (Psa 99:2), the psalmist asks God to show His great lovingkindness and truth by delivering His people. In doing so, the world will see His exaltation (Psa 108:3). The psalmist asks God to exalt Himself, that is, to act in accordance with it (Psa 108:5). He asks this not primarily in view of his own need, although that aspect also plays a role, as the next verse indicates, but so that God’s honor or glory will be visible “above all the earth”.

The only real source of comfort is the awareness that the well-being of the universe and of His people depends on God. God’s lovingkindness and truth are more important to the universe and to us than the success of our plans, our health, our prosperity, or our lives. If that is our first thought, we are then given the assurance that He cares about our fate on earth and will provide for deliverance and salvation, as we hear in the next verse.

When God’s glory is over all the earth, it means the end of all enmity against God and His beloved (Psa 108:6). The psalmist speaks to God of His people as “Your beloved” (cf. Deu 7:8; Jer 31:3). He appeals to God from the awareness that God loves His people. God will deliver His beloved when He exalts above the heavens in His lovingkindness and truth. Then His power, of which His right hand speaks, becomes manifest for the salvation of His people and the answer to the prayer of His own in their distress is given.

Verses 7-9

God Has Spoken

David and his people asked God for an answer in Psa 108:6. Now we hear that in response “God has spoken in His holiness” (Psa 108:7a). It can also be translated as “God has spoken in His sanctuary”. That means that what God says will sanctify His Name. What God says is at the same time what God does. When God wanted to create light, He only had to speak. He spoke and it was there: “God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light” (Gen 1:3). The LORD promised the land to Abraham (Gen 15:18-21). If the LORD did not fulfill His promise, His Name would be profaned. This is impossible, for the LORD speaks in His holiness and also fulfills this promise.

The point is that we come to know God’s view of a situation only in the sanctuary, where God dwells. There He makes His thoughts known in response to our questions. When we know how God thinks about a matter, we will exult for joy, as we read here that David does. Then despair and doubt disappear and certainty comes over the outcome of the battle.

Then we hear what God has spoken. First God speaks of His right to Shechem, Succoth, Gilead, Manasseh, Ephraim and Judah (Psa 108:7b-8). These areas are all in Israel. “Shechem” and “Succoth” point to the beginning of Jacob’s return to the promised land (Gen 33:17-18). That God will “portion out” Shechem proves His right to it (Psa 108:7b). He will give it to whom it belongs. “Measure out” the valley of Succoth has the same meaning. God will measure the whole area and give the precisely measured area to whom it belongs, no more and no less.

“Gilead” is at the other side of Jordan and “Manasseh” is partly in the land and partly at the other side of Jordan (Psa 108:8). Of both Gilead and the whole of Manasseh God says: it is “Mine”. “Ephraim” represents the ten tribes and “Judah” the two tribes. Together they make up the whole land of Israel. Of Ephraim God says that he is the helmet [literally: protection] of His head which means the main part or largest part of the land, which is the northern part. Of Judah God says he is His scepter, or lawgiver (cf. Gen 49:10; Num 21:18). From Judah His law will be taught and enforced everywhere. This will be the situation when the Messiah reigns.

Next, God proclaims that He also has ownership of all the territories outside of Israel. Of these, He names “Moab”, “Edom”, and “Philistia” by name (Psa 108:9). These countries represent the hostile neighboring countries. We also find these countries in Jeremiah’s prophecies of the end time (Jeremiah 47-49). God adds something to these names as well. Of Moab He says: “Moab is My washbowl.” A washbowl or laver serves to clean feet. God will use Moab to cleanse there the part of His people who will flee from the land and find refuge in Moab (Isa 16:4).

After the battle, the soldiers take off their shoes, wash their feet in a washbowl and throw their shoes at the defeated enemies as a sign of victory and proclaim it jubilantly. In short, victory is overwhelming and absolute. After these countries are conquered, just as in the days of the conquest of Canaan under Joshua, the land is taken possession of. And so the promise of God to Abraham is fulfilled.

Of Edom He says that He shall throw His shoe over it. This means that He will subject this people to Himself (cf. Rth 4:7). God will rejoice over Philistia. This people have rejoiced at the victories they have won over God’s people (cf. 2Sam 1:20). The roles will be reversed when the Messiah reigns (Isa 11:14).

Verses 10-13

God Is the Only Helper

After God has announced His ownership of various places and areas inside and outside of Israel, David asks who will bring him “into the strong city” (Psa 108:10, Darby Translation). The fortress of Petra, the capital of Edom, built in rocks, is that strong city. Because of its natural location, it is humanly impossible to conquer that city. Is there anyone, David wonders, who can lead him “to Edom”, into its center?

He himself gives the answer to his question. It can be none other than God (Psa 108:11). But God has rejected them. Prophetically, that is the time when Israel is under the rule of the antichrist. God has had to give His people over to it because of their unfaithfulness to Him. That David nevertheless says that God will lead him into Edom shows his faith. The God Who has rejected them is the Only One Who can help him and his army. Certainly, God did not go out with the armies of His people because His people had turned away from Him. That is why they were defeated. But that makes it immediately clear that the only way to overcome is for God to go out with them again.

Therefore, those who fear God can appeal to no one else in their distress but to Him alone (Psa 108:12). God has brought them into that distress and therefore He is the Only One Who can lead them out of it as well. Therefore, they cry out for His help. They acknowledge in what they have sinned in the past: “For deliverance by man is in vain” (cf. Isa 2:22).

We can also apply this spiritually. When a man is in spiritual distress about his sins, there is no man who can help him. The Only One Who can help is God. He alone can deliver him from the burden of his sins, no one else. For this He gave His Son. The same applies to the guidance in the life of the believer. Only God knows which way to go. Therefore, he must go to Him and not let himself be led by men. He has given His Word and His Spirit to guide him.

Only with God, with His help, God’s people will do valiantly (Psa 108:13). He provides His people with strength and courage to fight the enemies. This statement shows trust in God in the face of their own powerlessness. If He is with them, they will tread down their adversaries, which is tantamount to God treading them down (cf. Rom 16:20a).

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Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 108". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.