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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 33

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-22

Psalms 33:0

1          Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous:

For praise is comely for the upright.

2     Praise the Lord with harp:

Sing unto him with the psaltery and an instrument of ten strings.

3     Sing unto him a new song;

Play skilfully with a loud noise.

4     For the word of the Lord is right;

And all his works are done in truth.

5     He loveth righteousness and judgment:

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.

6     By the word of the Lord were the heavens made;

And all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

7     He gathereth the waters of the sea together as a heap:

He layeth up the depth in storehouses.

8     Let all the earth fear the Lord:

Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him:

9     For he spake, and it was done;

He commanded, and it stood fast.

10     The Lord bringeth the counsel of the heathen to nought:

He maketh the devices of the people of none effect.

11     The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever,

The thoughts of his heart to all generations.

12     Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord;

And the people whom he hath chosen for his own inheritance.

13     The Lord looketh from heaven;

He beholdeth all the sons of men.

14     From the place of his habitation he looketh

Upon all the inhabitants of the earth.

15     He fashioneth their hearts alike;

He considereth all their works.

16     There is no king saved by the multitude of a host:

A mighty man is not delivered by much strength.

17     A horse is a vain thing for safety:

Neither shall he deliver any by his great strength.

18     Behold, the eye of the Lord is upon them that fear him,

Upon them that hope in his mercy;

19     To deliver their soul from death,

And to keep them alive in famine.

20     Our soul waiteth for the Lord:

He is our help and our shield.

21     For our heart shall rejoice in him,

Because we have trusted in his holy name.

22     Let thy mercy, O Lord, be upon us,

According as we hope in thee.


Arrangement of the Contents.—The pious members of the congregation are summoned to give to the Lord the praise due unto Him (Psalms 33:1-3). This is based upon a reference to the nature of the word and work of God (Psalms 33:4-5), the Almighty Creator and Preserver (Psalms 33:6-7), as well as the Ruler of all the world, who is to be feared (Psalms 33:8-9) In contrast with the thoughts of men, His eternal and unchangeable decrees are victoriously carried out in history (Psalms 33:10-11), therefore the people chosen by Him for His own, are to be called happy (Psalms 33:12). The Omniscient King of heaven observes all things (Psalms 33:13-15); worldly power is not the cause of victory and of deliverance (Psalms 33:16-17), but the eyes of the Lord are directed upon the pious for their deliverance and preservation (Psalms 33:18-19); hence waiting and trusting in Him are essentially the work of the members of His congregation, and this expresses itself as well in thankful confession as in joyous hope and confident prayer (Psalms 33:20-22). With this closing clause the movement of thought returns to its beginning, which has the closest relation with the closing words of the preceding Psalm. From this may be explained the position of this Psalm in its present order in the book, yet it hardly shows that these two Psalms originally belonged together (Venema), or are a pair of Psalms (Hengst.), although the title which is usually appended in this book is absent here, which is the case only in the first two Psalms and in Psalms 10:0 [vid. these Psalms for the reasons of this.—C. A. B.]. For Psalms 32:0 has its source in the personal experience of an Israelite who was previously impenitent, yet was pardoned after having confessed his sins, and it maintains this character of individual testimony even where it passes over from the description of the contrasted conditions and experiences into a summons to all his companions to give personal expression to similar experiences, under similar treatment in similar circumstances, by praising God. The present Psalm, on the other hand, moves throughout in the tone of a hymn determined for the congregation as such, which has its foundation in the happy feeling of security of the people, who know that they are chosen and guided by the Creator and Ruler of the whole world as His own people. With this thorough-going difference of circumstances and character it is unimportant that this Psalm has twice as many verses as the previous Psalm, and that its fundamental thought appears immediately at the end of the first half of the Psalms 5:0

Str. I. [Psalms 33:1. Praise is comely.—Hupfeld: “This means that it is their duty as well as that it redounds to their honor and is an ornament, just as on the contrary, silence is to their shame: because they alone have a peculiar experience of the glorious government of God, and so they alone are fitted for this.”

Psalms 33:2. Upon a ten stringed harp play to Him.—For the musical instruments vid. Introduction. The A. V. improperly makes a separate clause for an instrument of ten strings.—C. A. B.]

Psalms 33:3. Play well.—This expression (comp. 1 Samuel 16:17; Isaiah 23:16) is given a too narrow reference by some interpreters, after the Sept., to the skill, by others, after Symm., to the power of the execution. The new song is one not heard before. Such an one may spring from a fresh impulse of the heart (Stier), since God’s glory is new every morning (Hengst.), without necessarily distinguishing itself by its originality, or taking its material ever, as Psalms 40:4 and Revelation 5:9, from a new occurrence. Therefore it is a false conclusion to suppose that this expression has been afterwards reduced to an insignificant formula, because it occurs in such Psalms as 95, 98, 149. And the conjecture, that the Psalm might refer to the disappearance of the Scythians, Zephaniah 3:15 (Hitzig), may be connected externally with Psalms 33:5; Psalms 33:10; Psalms 33:16, but cannot be derived from these verses, nor be supported by a comparison of Psalms 33:5 with Jeremiah 9:23, or Psalms 33:13-14 with Psalms 14:2, which comparisons though ingenious are violent. Nor can it be explained by the reference of Psalms 33:4 to Psalms 32:8, where it is said that Jehovah’s counsel and protection are promised, nor can it be made probable by the remark that is made, that the flood mentioned in Psalms 32:6, which passed away without harm for the entire people, might be referred to the same inroad, since Psalms 32:0 takes consideration of a hostile invasion, and Psalms 33:1 is connected without title with Psalms 32:11, and the perfect in Psalms 30:10 indicates a particular event, probably of the recent past, a mighty deed of the national God. No more is the design of this “new” song to be regarded, with the more ancient interpreters, as for use at a sacrificial feast, especially as תרועהdoes not mean “sound of trumpets” (De Wette), but merely shouting. Comp. Psalms 27:6.

Str. II. Psa 33:5. The predicates, “just and upright or honest,” are not to be taken as a later designation of the Israelites in general (Maurer), but as an address to the true members of the congregation (Hengst., Hupf.), yet so, that the national contrast of the people of God with heathen nations is at the same time indicated by this expression which characterizes the destiny of Israel. Comp. Numbers 23:10.

Str. III. Psa 33:6. Breath of His mouth.—The connection of these two expressions and their relation to the former half of the verse do not permit the direct reference of ancient interpreters to the hypostatic Spirit of God. But the unmistakable reference to the history of creation, is as clearly against the modern limitation of this expression to the meaning of utterance which is synonymous with the wordIsa. Psalms 11:4. And so, if the interpretation of ruach as breath is to be retained, we must yet think of the creative Omnipotence and breath of life, Job 27:3; Job 33:4; Psalms 104:30 (Hengst.), and the relative expressions are only synonymous “in so far as there is rendered prominent in dabar not only the creative power, but likewise wisdom (Jeremiah 10:12; Proverbs 3:19), whilst in ruach peh particularly the vitalizing power embraced in the form of the word (the operative breath from God’s own internal nature).” (Stier).

Psalms 33:7. He gathereth the waters of the sea together as a heap.—The Hebrew participles in this and the following clause might in themselves be translated by the perfect as well as by the present. The structure of the clause, however, in its relation to the previous verse favors the latter. For since Jehovah is not the subject of the previous verse, a close connection of the participle with it and at the same time a limitation to the fact of the Creation, which happened once for all, are excluded, although even the chosen expressions likewise take their departure in part from this fact. The clause is independent and expresses an abiding and characteristic action of God; similar to Psalms 33:5. This is likewise favored by the following expressions. For the comparison of the waters of the sea with a heap of sheaves (Isaiah 17:11 decides for this meaning) reminds us of the narrative of Exodus 15:8, likewise Joshua 3:13; Joshua 3:16; Psalms 78:13, mentioning with the same expression the towering up of the waters by a miracle of Divine Omnipotence in the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea. But here this fact as such is not mentioned, but by the choice of words the idea is called forth of the waters of the high sea, swelling up above jet held firmly together by the Omnipotence of God. There is no reference in the first half of the verse to limitations such as those formed by the banks and the beds of the waters. If with Cleric and Hupf. an additional thought is added under the figure of parietes horrei, whilst it is in other respects a true explanation, it displaces the point of comparison given in the text. In the translation of Ewald, Luther and all ancient interpreters, “as in a bottle,” we must read nôd [נֹאד=נדֹ ] instead of nçd [נֵד], the correct meaning of which was already given by Calvin and Ruding. after the Rabbins. Under the “bottle” was often understood the clouds, and then they thought of the upper or heavenly waters. Hitzig likewise refers this passage to this heavenly ocean (Job 9:8), which according to Job 26:8, by dint of the Omnipotence of God, is borne by the clouds without their being torn, and this although he translates: He restrains as with a dam. For whilst a real dam is placed to the earthly sea, whose character affords reason to wonder at the greatness of God, (Jeremiah 5:22), here a comparison is expressed. At the same time Hitzig lays emphasis upon the close connection which arises from this explanation with Psalms 33:6, and upon the circumstance, that elsewhere likewise (Job 38:22; Jeremiah 10:13; Sir 43:14) only the heavenly reservoirs are called treasury, as here in the second half of the verse. And so he refers this half likewise to the heavenly waters. But תְּהוֹם, which, apart from the history of the Creation and the Flood, is only found in poetical pieces, denotes constantly the roaring and unfathomable depth. However, it is not necessary, therefore, with the Rabbins, to think of the waters under the earth, according to Genesis 7:11. The reference in both halves of the verse is to floods of the sea, which in their apparent irregularity are subjected by God’s power to His will (Jeremiah 5:22), and are held together and stored up for the purposes of the Divine household.

Str. IV. 9. For He said and it was.—[The He is emphatic in this and the following clause]. This verse refers back to the omnipotence of God shown in the Creation (most interpreters, with the ancient translations), as a motive for all men to fear such a God as this. To take it as present (Luther, De Wette, Delitzsch) confounds application with interpretation. The supposition that this verse refers to the same fact, which is more clearly given in Psalms 33:10 (Hitzig), and relates to an event which only recently occurred (Venema), arises from the presumption which has not been proved, that a special historical occurrence like this was the occasion of this song. In connection with this interpretation, Hitzig understands by the hunger mentioned in Psalms 33:19, real hunger, which took place after that the people of the country had been pressed together into the strong cities (Jeremiah 8:14; Jeremiah 4:5). This expression, however, may be more easily taken as a designation of great need and peril of death in general, as Psalms 34:10 sq.; Psalms 37:19; Job 5:20, and often in the Prophets.

[Str. V. Psalms 33:10-11. Perowne: “After speaking of God’s power in Creation, the Psalmist goes on to speak of His Providence as ordering the world. There is a manifest antithesis between ‘the counsels and the thoughts’ of men which Jehovah brings to naught, and ‘the counsels and thoughts’ of Jehovah which abide forever.

Psalms 33:12. Alexander: “This is the centre of the whole Psalm, the conclusion from what goes before, and the text or theme of all that follows. Under the general proposition is included a particular felicitation of Israel as the actual choice and heritage of God, i.e., chosen to be His, in a peculiar sense, by hereditary succession, through a course of ages.”—C. A. B.]

Str. VI. [Psalms 33:13-14. From His Providence the Psalmist passes over to His Omniscience. Comp. Psalms 11:4; Psalms 14:2.—C. A. B.]

Psalms 33:15. Former of their hearts all at once.—The reference here is not to governing the heart (Luther) as in Proverbs 21:1; Jeremiah 10:23. By emphasizing the participle (Hengst., Delitz.) there is gained the idea of a continued and essential activity of God; but the word itself and the context lead not to a Divine influence with respect to forming the thoughts of the heart, but only to the creative formation of the heart. The overlooking and judicial activity of God described in Psalms 33:13-14, God exercises in the twofold capacity stated in Psalms 33:15. If יחד stood at the beginning of the verse as Psalms 49:3; Psalms 49:11, it would have to be referred with Hupfeld to both clauses in the signification of pariter ac. Its present position, however, is in favor of the usual meaning: all at once, altogether. The Vulgate renders this idea of being without exception, by singillatim after the Sept. κατὰ μόνας, whilst the plural καρδίας is put instead of the singular.

Str. VII. Psalms 33:16. The king is not helped.—The article before melech makes the translation “no king” (De Wette [A. V.]) inadmissible. The particle of negation is to be referred to the participle with strong emphasis. Comp. Ewald, § 321, a.

[Psalms 33:17. The horse is a delusion for help.—Alexander: “The horse meant is the war-horse, and is singled out as one of the elements of military strength in which the ancients were especially disposed to trust. Vid.Psalms 20:7; Isaiah 31:1-3. A lie, a falsehood, i.e., something which deceives and disappoints the confidence reposed in it.”—C. A. B.]

[Str. VIII. Psalms 33:18-19. Alexander: “While the material strength of other men fails to secure them, those who fear the Lord and hope in His mercy are secure beneath His vigilant inspection.”—C. A. B.]

Str. IX. Psalms 33:20-22. In the first half of the verse Hengstenberg finds an allusion to Genesis 49:18, in the second half to Deuteronomy 33:26; Deuteronomy 33:29. [For an explanation of help, and shield, vid.Psalms 5:12; Psalms 10:14; Psalms 22:11; Psalms 30:10. Perowne: “This attitude of hope and trust is the attitude of the Church in all ages, for she is not yet made perfect; but the Jewish Church was in a special sense the Church of the future, and therefore also in a special manner a waiting and hoping Church. The whole history of Israel may indeed be summed up in Jacob’s dying words: ‘I have waited for Thy salvation, O Lord.’ ”—C. A. B.]


1. The solemn and thankful praise of God in the congregation corresponds on the one side with the will of God, who by His prophet has demanded it, on the other side is appropriate to the upright, who by virtue of their position in the congregation and to God, in the fulfilment of this duty of the appropriate recognition of God, are able to give suitable expression to it. Their jubilation has not only as its subject the glory of God, but exhibits itself likewise as a joy in the Lord, which does not despise the use of art, yet employs it for the honor of God, encourages those like-minded to praise God by personal, joyous confession, and is impelled and enabled to make known in new songs and new ways the renewed feelings of the heart. “To the unrighteous the glory of God is not the subject of joy and of praise, but of terror and aversion.—It is a sad sign of the decline of the Church when the demand to sing Him a new song is no longer executed. The more careful then must it be to preserve its old songs” (Hengst.) Comp. Psalms 50:16.

2. The inexhaustible reason for breaking forth in new songs of praise, and the fresh sounding forth of the old songs of faith in the congregation, is the recognition of the glory of God, as it is manifest to the congregation in the word and providence of the Lord. Both mutually confirm one another, and declare God as the one who is worthy of praise, and who is alone reliable as well on account of His moral perfection as with respect to His Omnipotence, which are testified to in the creation and government of the world, whilst they realize in both the unchangeable thoughts and counsels of the righteousness and love of God, which are made known to His chosen people in the words of revelation.

3. All men have therefore good reason to fear a God like this, but to esteem His chosen people as blessed, that they have such a Lord for their God. They have every reason to trust Him, in the greatest dangers to hope in His assistance, and to expect deliverance from Him out of the greatest troubles. For no creature can successfully resist the Creator, nothing can escape the service of the Almighty, no works, yea no thought of the heart can be concealed from the eye of the Omniscient. And when men attempt it and not only singly, but in great masses follow their own end, turning away from God, they are obliged to experience that God’s decrees and order stand fast forever and not only maintain themselves against all opposition and resistance, but are carried out in the world to the honor of God, and the good of His people, whilst the thoughts, counsels and works of the adversaries are observed, judged and brought to nought by God.

4. Since this is so, it is becoming for the pious, not only to praise God, but no more to fear the power of the adversary than rely upon earthly means of help, but much rather in true fear of God to resort to the Lord, and in living faith hope in His grace. But the hope of those who fear God and trust in Him will not be put to shame, for it is not based on human presumptions, suppositions and wishes, but on the holy name, in which the true God has revealed His holy nature, and in which grace and faith meet one another. Those who hide themselves in God, will rejoice in God, yet in all their rejoicings in God will not forget to pray as penitent sinners for new tokens of grace from the faithful God of the covenant, and thereby as true members of the congregation, show how God ceases not to show Himself to them even to the end, the same as He has declared Himself from the beginning, as ever the same reliable God. “The wickedness of men may have in itself the desire to injure, but it has not the power; there is no power except from God” (Augustine).


To praise God is for the pious a duty as well as an honor and joy.—A new heart is necessary for new songs.—How art is sanctified, when it is used to praise God and edify the congregation.—The happiness of the people whose God is the Lord: 1) in what it consists; 2) how it is expressed; 3) how it may be preserved.—The great joy of the pious in God’s works and government is magnified by their joy in God’s word and holy name, and is fulfilled in a joy in God Himself by a life in His grace.—What God preserves in His treasury He bestows in blessings or in curses, in accordance with His will and the conduct of men.Human thoughts and Divine decrees.—On what the confidence is based that God will help His people out of all their troubles and can help them!—The pious can rely upon God’s holy word with the same confidence, as upon God’s holy Providence.—The reliable, comforting and blessed meeting of the Divine grace and human faith.—How we may accomplish that our life as well as our song may begin and close with joy in God.—God is not only the almighty Creator and the kind Preserver of the world, He is likewise the watchful Guardian of the ordinances and laws instituted by Himself, the Omniscient and just Judge of all men, the only reliable Protector and Helper of His people.—.The consideration of the word and works of God should encourage us to fear, love and trust in God respecting all things.—God has made known to us His holy name in order that we may call upon Him in all our troubles, pray to Him, praise and thank Him.

Starke: If the work which is done is to please God, the person must first of all please Him and be justified by faith.—If we properly understood our great benefits and heavenly treasures we would rejoice more over them than over all the honor and glory of this world.—The ungodly cannot praise God, for they have no taste of the goodness of God; their praise pleases God as little as their prayers.—All the works of God show, that He is honest, faithful and true.—In all the commands, threatenings and promises of God look alone to the Divine authority of the Ruler, this will strongly impel you to the obedience of childlike respect and trust.—If God has created the wonderful structure of the heavens with all its hosts and has thus far upheld it, how shall He not be able to sustain thee, who art only one creature and a little piece of earth? It is an especial grace of God, that He brings to nought the blood-thirsty devices of the enemy, the church would otherwise long since have perished.—All that thou dost, take counsel at first with God, for if this is neglected it is an easy thing for Him to bring to nought all thy plans.—Wilt thou have the gracious eye of God directed upon thee, then direct thine eye constantly to Him in faith, love and obedience.—If we do not persevere in patience and constancy, we forfeit true Divine help, and do not obtain what we otherwise would.

Osiander: We should use temporal good so that it may be our greatest joy that God is graciously disposed toward us.—Menzel: God not only does righteousness, but He loves it and demands it likewise of others.—Renschel: If it is true that God can and does do so much, it is likewise fair 1) that we should wait on Him, 2) that we should make Him our shield, 3) that we should rejoice in Him.—Frisch: If a joyous praise and service of God is lacking to a man, he lacks likewise a true knowledge of what he has in God.—Arndt: The great sea is surrounded by the commandments of God; how should He not then bridle men on earth, and put a bit in their mouths?—Francke: Where a new song like this is sung, there must likewise be a new tongue; but a new heart is presupposed.—Nitzsch: The glorifying of God our Saviour by the new songs, which He has awakened from the earliest times in His congregation. These songs glorify Him, 1) by virtue of their origin, since they come only from a newly created heart which is full of salvation; 2) by means of their meaning and contents as the signs of the highest satisfaction, which it is possible for men to attain here below, 3) by means of their long and deep effect upon the present and future; 4) as the living alliance of the saints with the lovely and beautiful.—Umbreit: The same God, to the ordinance of whose words the physical world must submit, rules forever in the kingdom of spirits.—All true power comes from God, and is crowned with victory by Him.—Tholuck: The throne of God is not an idle seat of care, but the judgment seat of a king, from which with lofty glance the fates of the world are ruled.—All victories on earth are gained only by the power of God.—Taube: An appeal to all true Israelites to praise the glory of the Lord, who is the terror of His enemies, but the consolation of His people.—Make no parade with the creature, but be not afraid of the creature, for it is in the hand of God.—Schaubach. Fear and hope are seldom found together in men; but he who would hope in the goodness of God, must likewise fear His holy name.

[Matth. Henry: What pity is it that this earth, which is so full of God’s goodness, should be so empty of His praises; and that, of the multitudes that live upon His bounty, there are so few that live to His glory.—How easy may this thought make us at all times, that God governs the world, that He did it in infinite wisdom before we were born, and will do it when we are silent in the dust!—They that fear God and His wrath must hope in God and His mercy; for there is no flying from God but by flying to Him.—Barnes: God is a great and glorious Sovereign over all, and He will make everything subordinate to the promotion of His own great designs.—True piety leads men to wait on the Lord; to depend on Him; to look to His interposition, in danger, sickness, poverty, want: to rely on. Him for all that is hoped for in this life, and for salvation in the life to come.—Spurgeon: To rejoice in temporal comforts is dangerous, to rejoice in self is foolish, to rejoice in sin is fatal, but to rejoice in God is heavenly.—Heartiness should be conspicuous in Divine worship.—God writes with a pen that never blots, speaks with a tongue that never slips, acts with a hand which never fails. Bless His name.—If earth be full of mercy, what must heaven be, where goodness concentrates its beams?—Happy is the man who has learned to lean his all upon the sure word of Him who built the skies.—The cause of God is never in danger; infernal craft is outwitted by infinite wisdom, and Satanic malice is held in check by boundless power.—All Adam’s sons are as well watched as was Adam himself, their lone progenitor in the garden.—The eye of peculiar care is their glory and defence. None can take them unawares, for the celestial Watcher foresees the designs of their enemies and provides against them.—Believer, wait upon thy God in temporals. His eye is upon thee, and His hand will not long delay.—The root of faith in due time bears the flower of rejoicing. Doubts breed sorrow, confidence creates joy.—C. A. B.]


[5][However different these two Psalms may be in some respects, yet the close resemblance and the frequently recurring references in expressions and in sentiment to the previous Psalm, favor the idea that the two Psalms were originally one, but were afterwards separated for use in the congregation. The first verse of this Psalm takes up directly the sentiment and words of the closing verse of the previous Psalm. The references in Str. II. to the justice and goodness of God fully accord with these sentiments. The reference to the Divine power in the creation and government of the world is natural in this connection, where the penitent is rejoicing in the forgiveness of sins, especially as the two ideas are brought together in an inverse order in Psalms 19:0. It is not unimportant that Psalms 33:12 ascribes the same blessedness to the nation and people as was ascribed to the individual at the beginning of Psalms 32:0. The terms and sentiments of Psalms 33:16 sq. are in accordance with Psalms 32:8-9. And the final expressions of hope and trust in Jehovah’s holiness and mercy form a proper conclusion to the sentiments of both Psalms.—C. A. B.]

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 33". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/psalms-33.html. 1857-84.
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