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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Psalms 96

The call to the people of Israel in Psalm 95 to praise the LORD as a great King (Psa 95:1-7) is also made to the nations in the now following psalms (Psalms 96-100) (cf. Mt 24:14; Isa 12:4). In these, it is not the kingship of David that is sung, but that of the LORD, that is, the Lord Jesus:

Psalm 96 begins with: “Sing to the LORD a new song” (Psa 96:1).
Psalm 97 begins with: “The LORD reigns” [literally “the LORD is King”] (Psa 97:1).
Psalm 98 begins with: “O Sing to the LORD a new song” (Psa 98:1).
Psalm 99 begins with: “The LORD reigns” [literally “the LORD is King”] (Psa 99:1).
Psalm 100 begins with: “Shout joyfully to the LORD, all the earth” (Psa 100:1).

David’s kingship and that of the Lord Jesus are very closely connected with each other, for the great Son of David is the LORD of hosts. These verses look forward to the fulfillment of the promises when the LORD openly exercises His authority over the nations.

Psalm 96 is almost word for word the middle part of the song of praise in 1 Chronicles 16 (1Chr 16:23-33). Because of this, we know that this psalm was written by David. David instructs in 1 Chronicles 16 to thank and praise the LORD through the service of Asaph and his brethren (1Chr 16:7). This song of praise is a compilation of portions from various psalms, including Psalm 96.

1 Chronicles 16 concludes the description of the great event of placing the ark in Jerusalem, the king’s city. This confirms the public worship of God during the reign of David. In bringing the ark up to Jerusalem we see a picture of the Messiah coming to earth to reign. That the ark was brought in (1Chr 16:1), prophetically means that in Psalms 96-100 Christ is seen to have already come and taken His place as King! God brought His firstborn Son into the world (Heb 1:6; Psa 89:27).

Verses 1-6

A New Song to the LORD


The Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament – has as heading above this psalm: ‘When the house was built after the exile, a song of David.’ [The house is the tabernacle and the exile is the exile of the ark during the time it had fallen into the hands of the Philistines.]

The call sounds to the nations to “sing to the LORD a new song” (Psa 96:1). The first song sung in the Bible is the song of Moses (Exo 15:1-18). It is sung immediately after the deliverance from Egypt. Again, in Psalms 96-100, all people are called to sing because the LORD’s salvation has come in and through the Lord Jesus: Jesus means the LORD, Yahweh, saves.

A song comes after redemption, as in Exodus 15. A new song comes after a new redemption from the LORD (cf. Lam 3:22-23). The phrase “new song” occurs seven times in the Old Testament, six of which occur in Psalms (Psa 33:3; Psa 40:3; Psa 96:1; Psa 98:1; Psa 144:9; Psa 149:1), and once in Isaiah (Isa 42:10). In the New Testament it occurs twice in Revelation (Rev 5:9; Rev 14:3).

The call comes from Israel, who are God’s people. They have been rescued from distress and introduced into blessing by the coming of the Messiah. It is a new situation in the history of the world. Christ reigns and God is acknowledged by the nations. This calls for a new song from the nations (cf. Psa 33:3). A new song is then already being sung in heaven (Rev 5:9-10).

“All the earth” is called to sing to the LORD. The people are overwhelmed by the great goodness that is their portion. In this they want the nations to share who have been brought into connection with them. The glorious consequences of Christ’s coming are sung about and all are called to sing along.

In Psa 96:2, the call to sing to the LORD and praise His Name is heard again. The motive is the salvation of God that He has wrought for His people. The nations are to bring the message of this “from day to day”, that is, they are to do so continuously, unceasingly. Just as the people of Israel must bring the burnt offering daily, in the morning and in the evening, to the LORD (Exo 29:38-42), so also in the realm of peace the offering of praise (Psa 50:14) will ascend daily from the mouth of Israel (Psalm 95) and the nations (Psalm 96). Yes, the book of Psalms ends in Psalm 150 with the words: “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Hallelujah!” (Psa 150:6).

Likewise, we are called to tell of God’s salvation every day, wherever He gives us the opportunity to do so. This is to His glory and possibly to the eternal blessing of someone who hears our testimony.

The command is to “tell His glory among the nations” (Psa 96:3). His honor is seen in “His wonderful deeds”. We can think of the wonders He did in Egypt in delivering His people from slavery. We can apply it to the wonder of our deliverance from the power of sin and the numerous wonders He has done in our lives.

The LORD is indeed “great … and greatly to be praised” (Psa 96:4). He is not ‘greater than’, but He alone is great in an absolute sense, He is infinitely, incomparably great (Psa 77:13). Therefore, He alone is worthy of great praise. He is certainly “above all gods” and at the same time “to be feared above” them (cf. Psa 66:3; 5). His greatness inspires awe.

By “gods”, given the context here, we can best think of angels or persons of law, beings with a certain authority. But they are dwarfed by Him. They are extremely limited creatures, both in terms of their person and their abilities. Angels can be powerful, but God is Almighty. He has all authority in heaven and on earth (Mt 28:18).

The nations have their gods (Psa 96:5; 1Cor 8:5-6; cf. Deu 4:19). These gods are apostate angels or demons. Idols are dead pieces of matter (Isa 2:8; Isa 44:9-20). Behind them are demons (1Cor 10:19-20). God created matter. Man in his great folly takes dead matter to worship it. Idols are nothing, nullities (1Cor 8:4). They are creatures of man’s imagination (Isa 40:19-20; cf. Rom 1:21) under the inspiration of demons. Opposed to man’s imagination is the LORD Who “made the heavens”. He has made the whole area of heaven and therefore only He may be worshiped. He gives His glory to no other (Isa 2:17-18; Isa 42:8).

Everything that is “before Him”, that is, everything that is in His presence, radiates “splendor and majesty” (Psa 96:6). Whatever is in His presence reflects the features of His Being. He places His majesty and glory on everything around Him. So it is also “in His sanctuary” in the midst of His people.

The parallel section in 1 Chronicles 16 says “in His place”, and that means ‘heaven’ (1Chr 16:27). When the Lord Jesus returns, that fourfold glory mentioned here in Psa 96:6 will also be visible from Zion, His sanctuary on earth. There are “strength and beauty” there, which means that His sanctuary is the source of strength and becomes visible from there. And when His power becomes visible, the splendor, the all-transcending glory of God becomes visible.

Verses 7-9

Worldwide Praise to the LORD


The “families of the peoples” (cf. Gen 10:2-20) are called to “ascribe to the LORD glory and strength” (Psa 96:7). The nations are made up of families, people who are connected not only by the same nationality but also by blood ties (cf. Zec 12:12-14). Nothing can be given to Him that He does not already possess. He possesses all glory and strength. To give Him glory and strength means to say to Him that He is worthy of all glory and that all strength belongs to Him.

They give Him the glory of His Name when they come into His courts with sacrifices (Psa 96:8). By doing so, they make it clear that they can only come into God’s presence with offerings. Man cannot approach God empty-handed. The offerings speak of the work of Christ, Who became the offering for sin. Only on the basis of His work and faith in it God can receive people into His presence. As a result, His Name is honored. Coming with offerings means acknowledging and agreeing with God’s way to Him.

The common expression for “offering” is derived from the words ‘draw near’. In other words, in order to draw near to God one must offer an offering. Here it is not the common word for offering, but another word, namely the word ‘gift’, a word from which the word ‘grain offering’ is derived. It is here to be able to approach “His courts”, plural, that is, two courts, namely the outer court and the inner court (cf. Eze 40:17-19).

Not only are the outward offerings important, but also the worshiping before Him with inward trembling of awe (Psa 96:9). An offering is only pleasing to and acceptable by God if we come “in holy attire” as the expression of a humble mind and awe of Him (cf. Psa 51:19). “All the earth”, that is, all the nations of the earth, are called to worship and tremble “before Him”. “Before Him” means in His presence, under His watchful eye.

Verses 10-13

The LORD Reigns


These verses look ahead to the realm of peace, where all nature is in rapture for the Messiah. The message that “the LORD reigns” – literally “the LORD is King”; the LORD is the Messiah –, is to be made known “among the nations” (Psa 96:10). Under all the governments of men, the world has known no firmness and has always moved. This situation will come to an end under His kingship. Everything is given firmness and stability through Him because He has girded Himself with power (Psa 93:1).

This will be evident when “He will judge the peoples with equity”. The Lord Jesus will reign as the true Melchizedek, whose name means king of righteousness (Heb 7:1-2; Psa 9:8-9). Incorruptible and perfectly righteous, He will judge from “His glorious throne” (Mt 25:31-46). His equitable justice is the basis for an unshakable world. What He says and decides is fair and just and therefore of lasting value. It is unchanging, He never has to return to it.

“The heavens”, that is, the inhabitants of heaven, are called to rejoice (Psa 96:11). Heaven was created by the LORD (Psa 96:5), heaven rejoices (here), and heaven declares His righteousness (Psa 97:6). When the believing remnant has overcome satan by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, the “heavens and you who dwell in them” are called to “rejoice” (Rev 12:11-12).

“The earth”, that is the people living on earth, is called to rejoice. Heaven and earth belong together as created by the same Creator. They unite in joy because the Messiah has accepted His kingship (cf. Rev 18:20; Rev 19:6). This means the end of all injustice and the righteous judgment of all injustice ever committed. “The sea”, which is always a picture of the rebellious nations, “and all that it contains” is now called upon to join roaringly with the rejoicing and joy.

“The field … and all that is in it”, such as the animals and plants, is called upon to “exult” (Psa 96:12). “The trees of the forest” will then “sing for joy”. The whole creation in all its parts, the invisible and the visible, is called to express joy because the time has come for the LORD to take His seat on His throne to judge the earth (cf. Isa 44:23). Creation is then freed from the curse that has come upon it through man’s sin (Rom 8:21).

The occasion of this outburst of joy is the coming of the Messiah (Psa 96:13). Full of enthusiasm, mention is made of His coming. His coming is “to judge the earth”. He always rules, but then it will be visible to all. The rules by which He reigns are those of righteousness (cf. Acts 17:31) and faithfulness, for He is the omniscient, almighty God.

This is an impressive moment, a moment of unprecedented importance. It is the great turning point in human history. Now everything is going to be totally different: God is going to rule through His Son. He has given all judgment to Him because He is the Son of Man (Jn 5:27). Through judgment, there will be order and peace in the world. The earth is regenerated (Mt 19:28).

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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 96". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-96.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.