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This Psalm most probably was composed by David, when the civil wars between the houses of Saul and David were ended, and David was newly settled in the kingdom of all Israel, and had newly brought up the ark of God to his royal city, But though this was the occasion, yet David, or at least the Spirit of God, which indited this Psalm, had a further reach and higher design in it, and especially in the latter part of it, which was to carry the reader’s thoughts beyond the type to the antitype, the Messias and his kingdom, who was chiefly intended in it; which is apparent both from the testimonies produced out of it to that purpose in the New Testament, as Matthew 21:9,Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10,Mark 12:11; Acts 4:11, &c.; and from the consent of the Hebrew doctors, both ancient and modern; one evidence whereof is, that in their prayers for their Messiah they use some part of this Psalm; and from the matter itself, as we shall see hereafter. The form of this Psalm may seem to be dramatical, and several parts of it are spoken in the name of several persons, yet so that the distinction of the persons and their several passages is not expressed, but left to the observation of the intelligent and diligent reader, as it is in the book of the Song of Solomon, and in some part of Ecclesiastes, and in many profane writers. David speaks in his own name from the beginning to verse 22, and from thence to verse 25 in the name of the people, and thence to verse 27 in the name of the priests, and then concludes in his own name.
The psalmist exhorteth all the godly to praise the Lord, who had been merciful to them, Psalms 118:1-4. By his own experience showeth how good it is to trust in the Lord, who had delivered him from his enemies, Psalms 118:5-18. Under the type of the psalmist, the coming of Christ, whom the chief of the people refuse, is expressed and blessed, Psalms 118:19-29.
O give thanks; all sorts of persons, which are particularly expressed in the three next verses, as they are mentioned in like manner and order Psalms 115:9-11, See Poole "Psalms 115:9", See Poole "Psalms 115:10", See Poole "Psalms 115:11"
Israel, after the flesh, all the tribes and people of Israel, except the Levites.
The priests and Levites, who were greatly discouraged and oppressed in Saul’s time, and shall receive great benefits by my government.
The Gentile proselytes, whereof there were in David’s time, and were likely to be, greater numbers than formerly had been.
Set me; which verb is tacitly included in the former, and is easily understood out of Psalms 31:8, where the full phrase is expressed, and from the following word. See the like examples in the Hebrew text, Genesis 12:15; Psalms 22:21, &c.
A frail and impotent creature in himself, and much more when he is opposed to the Almighty God.
The Lord taketh my part with them that help me; he is one of the number of my helpers, and enables them to defend me.
As mine adversaries do in their own numbers, and in their great confederates.
All nations compassed me about; the neighbouring and heathen nations, Philistines, Syrians, Ammonites, Moabites, &c., who were stirred up, partly, by the overthrows which David had given some of them; partly, by their jealousy at David’s growing greatness and fear for themselves; and partly, by their hatred against the true religion.
They compassed me about; the repetition implies their frequency and fervency in this action, and their confidence of success.
Like bees; in great numbers, and with great and potent fury, and to their own ruin, as bees do when they fly about a man, and leave their stings in him.
They are quenched: so this word is used Job 6:17; Job 18:5,Job 18:6; Job 21:17. Or, as the LXX. and Chaldee render it, they burnt or flamed, i.e. raged against me like fire, as it follows. And this is supposed to be one of those Hebrew verbs, which have not only divers, but contrary significations.
As the fire of thorns; which flameth out terribly, and makes a crackling noise, and burneth fiercely, but quickly spends itself without any considerable or lasting effect.
For; or, but, as this very particle is frequently used, and here twice in this very phrase, Psalms 118:10,Psalms 118:11. So as the former part of the verse notes their hostile attempt, this notes their ill success and utter ruin. Here is an inversion of words in this last clause, which is not unusual in the Hebrew text. Although these words may be, and are by a learned man of our own, rendered as they lie in the Hebrew, I trust (which word may easily be understood out of Psalms 118:8,Psalms 118:9)
in the name of the Lord, therefore (for so the Hebrew chi is oft rendered, and is so taken by the Chaldee in this place)
I shall destroy them, or cut them off.
Thou, O mine enemy, and the head of all mine enemies. Possibly he understandeth Saul, whom for honour’s sake he forbears to name; or some other chief commander of his enemies. Or the singular word is here put collectively for all his enemies.
My strength and song; the author of my strength, and therefore the just object of my song and praise. My salvation, i.e. my Saviour.
The voice of rejoicing and salvation, of rejoicing and thanksgiving for the salvation and deliverance which God hall wrought for me, is in the tabernacles of the righteous; partly because they clearly saw God’s hand in the work, and therefore took pleasure in it; and partly because all good men suffered great inconveniences under Saul’s government, as David complains in divers of the foregoing Psalms, and expected and received singular benefits by David’s advancement, both in their civil and religious concernments.
The right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly: these are the words of that song of joy and praise now mentioned.
Is exalted; hath appeared evidently, and wrought powerfully and gloriously on my behalf.
I shall not die, to wit, so soon as mine enemies desire, nor by their sword, as they hope and endeavour.
Declare the works of the Lord; one branch whereof is the total destruction of mine enemies. He implies that he did not desire life, nor should employ it, as his enemies did theirs, but for the service and glory of God.
Hath chastened me sore by the hands of mine enemies, whom God used to that very purpose for my greater good, and their own greater and surer ruin and confusion.
Open to me, O ye porters, appointed by God for this work. Or it is a figurative and poetical manner of expression, whereby he speaks to the gates themselves, as if they had sense and understanding. Or by saying open, he implies that they had been long shut against him in Saul’s time. The gates of righteousness, to wit, the gates of the Lord’s tabernacle, the proper and usual place of the solemn performance of the duty here following, which he calleth
the gates of righteousness, partly, in opposition to the gates of death, of which he speaks implicitly Psalms 118:18, and expressly Psalms 9:13; Psalms 107:18, which may be called the gates of sin or unrighteousness, because death is the wages of sin; partly, because there the rule of righteousness was kept and taught, and the sacrifices of righteousness (as they are called, Psalms 4:5) were offered, and divers other exercises of righteousness or of God’s service were performed; and partly, because those gates were to be opened to all righteous persons, (such as David had oft professed and proved himself to be, upon which account he claims this as his just privilege,) and only to such, for the unclean and unrighteous were to be shut and kept out by the porters, 2 Chronicles 23:19; compare Isaiah 26:2.
These may be the words either,
1. Of the Levites, the porters returning this answer to the foregoing question: This is the gate of the Lord which thou seekest, and which shall be opened to thee according to thy desire, and thy just privilege, for then art one of those righteous ones to whom this of right belongs. Or,
2. Of David himself, who stands as it were pausing and contemplating before he makes his entrance: This, this is that holy and blessed gate, which I so long and earnestly thirsted for in my banishment, and which is now very beautiful in my sight, into which I will enter, and all other righteous persons by my example and encouragement. But as David was a type of Christ and the temple of heaven, so this place hath a further prospect than David, and relates to Christ’s ascending into heaven, and opening the gates of that blessed temple, both for himself, and for all righteous men or believers.
The commonwealth of Israel and the church of God are here and elsewhere in Scripture compared to a building, wherein as the people are the stones and the matter, so the princes and rulers are the builders, whose office it was to erect, and support, and improve the building, and to use their wisdom and power in choosing fit materials for the several parts and purposes of the building, and in the rejection of what was unprofitable and inconvenient. And these master-builders rejected David as an obscure, and treacherous, and rebellious person, fit to be not only laid aside and thrown away, but also to be crushed to pieces. And so their successors rejected Christ as an enemy to Moses, a friend to sinners, and a blasphemer against God, and therefore deserving death and damnation.
The head stone of the corner; the chief stone in the whole building, by which the several parts of the building are upheld and firmly united and kept together. Thus David united all the tribes and families of Israel, who had been miserably distracted and divided by the civil wars between the houses of Saul and David. And thus Christ united Jews and Gentiles together, as is observed, Ephesians 2:14, &c. And although David alludeth to himself and his own condition, yet it is not to be doubted but that having the prophetical Spirit, by which he foresaw the coming of Christ, and his ill usage from the Jews, of which he speaks very particularly Psalms 22:0, and elsewhere; and having his thoughts much taken up with Christ and the event of his kingdom, of which he speaks in divers of his Psalms, he had his eye principally fixed upon him in these and the following expressions. And therefore this place is justly expounded of Christ in the New Testament, as Mark 12:10; Acts 4:11; Romans 9:32; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6, compared with Isaiah 28:16. And to him indeed the words agree much more properly and fully than to David.
This; this strange event; the feminine gender being put for the neuter, as it is in other places of Scripture.
The Lord’s doing; peculiarly an effect of his omnipotent wisdom; done not only without the help of man, but against all the artifices and forces of men.
Made; either created, or exalted and glorified, as this word is used, 1 Samuel 12:6, or sanctified by his glorious presence and work, and by his appointment, as a time or season never to be forgotten, but to be observed with great thankfulness and rejoicing, as it follows.
I beseech thee; or, we beseech thee; for the Hebrew words may be rendered either way. These seem to be the words of the Levites, to whom he spake Psalms 118:19; or of the people, using these joyful acclamations or prayers to God for the preservation of their king and kingdom. This also is interpreted of and was applied to Christ, even by the Jews themselves, Mark 11:9; John 12:13.
Blessed be he; we earnestly pray that God would bless his person and government, and all his enterprises. That cometh, to wit, unto us, from whom he was long banished; or unto the throne; or from his Father into the world; the Messias, who is known by the name of him that cometh or was to come, as Matthew 11:3; Matthew 21:9; Luke 7:20; Luke 13:35; John 12:13, and of whom this very word is used, Genesis 49:10; Isaiah 35:4. He who is about to come, or will certainly come. In the name of the Lord; by command and commission from him, and for his service and glory.
We have blessed you out of the house of the Lord; we who are the Lord’s ministers, attending upon him in his house, and appointed to bless in his name, Numbers 6:23; Deuteronomy 10:8, do pray for, and in God’s name pronounce, his blessing upon thee. So these are the words of the priests.
God is the Lord; God hath proved himself to be the Lord Jehovah by the accomplishment of his promises. See Poole "Exodus 6:3". Or, the Lord or Jehovah is God, as it was said upon another solemn occasion and appearance of God, 1 Kings 18:39; or, is the mighty God, as this name of God signifies, and as he showed himself to be by this his mighty and wonderful work. Which hath showed us light; who hath caused light to shine out of darkness; who hath scattered our thick and dark clouds, and put us into a state of peace, and comfort, and safety, and happiness; all which are frequently signified by light in the Holy Scripture. Or, who hath discovered, and will in due time send, the Messias, who is called the light of the Gentiles, or of the world, or of men, Isaiah 42:6; John 1:4; John 8:12; John 12:35,John 12:46, and by whom he will more clearly and fully reveal his whole mind and will to us, and tell us all things, as the Jews expected, John 4:25, who also will enlighten our dark minds by his Spirit.
Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar: these words, as well as those which go before them in this verse, and those which follow after them, Psalms 118:28, may be the words of David unto the priests, who had now blessed him in God’s name, Psalms 118:26. And this blessing of God which you wish me, God hath already given me; and therefore in way of gratitude I will offer sacrifices to him, which do you, O ye priests, according to your office, bind to the hems of the altar; of which see Exodus 27:2; which horns are supposed by divers learned men to be made for this very use, that the beasts should be bound and killed there. And this may seem probable from Exodus 29:11,Exodus 29:12; Leviticus 4:7, &c., where we read that the beasts were to be killed by the door of the tabernacle, which was very near the altar of burnt-offerings, and then immediately part of their blood was to be put upon the horns of the altar, and the rest poured out at the bottom of it. Although these words may be thus rendered, Bind and bring (one pregnant word being put for two, as above, Psalms 118:5, and in many other places of Scripture) the sacrifice with cords unto the horns of the altar, that it may be killed beside it, and its blood put upon the horns, after the manner. So they may be David’s words to his servants to go and bring one of his beasts to be offered to God in his name.
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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 118". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 15 / Ordinary 20