Bible Commentaries
Psalms 85

Poole's English Annotations on the Holy BiblePoole's Annotations


Psalms 85:0


This Psalm is thought to have been made after the people’s return from the Babylonish captivity, wherein he partly gives God thanks for that glorious deliverance, and partly implores God’s mercy in completing that work, and rescuing his people from the relics of their bondage, and from the vexation which they had by their neighbours after they were returned to Canaan.

The psalmist, out of the experience of former mercies, prayeth for the continuance of them, Psalms 85:1-7; resolveth to wait on the Lord: and hear what he will speak, Psalms 85:8. His confidence in his goodness, mercy, and truth, Psalms 85:9-13.

Verse 1

Unto thy land, i.e. unto thy people, in removing the sad effects of thy displeasure.

The captivity; the captives, as the word is used, Psalms 14:7; Psalms 68:18, and elsewhere.

Verse 2

So as not to impute it to them, or to continue the punishment which thou didst inflict upon them for it.

Verse 3

All thy wrath; those calamities which were the effects of thy just wrath conceived against us.

Verse 4

Turn us; either,

1. Convert us. As thou hast brought back our bodies to thy land, so bring back our hearts to thyself, from whom many of them to this day are alienated. Or rather,

2. Restore us to our former tranquillity, and free us from the troubles which we yet groan under from our malicious neighbours and enemies; for this best suits with the following clause of the verse, which commonly explains the former.

Cause thine anger toward us to cease; he prudently endeavours to take away the root and cause of their continued miseries, to wit, God’s anger procured by their sins.

Verse 6

Thou hast once revived us in bringing us out of captivity, give us a second reviving in bringing home the rest of our brethren, and in rebuking and restraining the remainder of our enemies’ wrath.

Verse 7

Show us thy mercy, i.e. grant it to us, as the next words explain it, and as showing signifies, Psalms 4:6; so also Psalms 60:3; Psalms 71:20. Or, manifest thy secret purpose of mercy to us by thy providential dispensations.

Verse 8

I will hear, i.e. diligently observe. And the psalmist, by declaring what he would do, teacheth all the Israelites what they ought to do. Or he speaks in the name of all the people of God.

What God the Lord will speak; either by his prophets or messengers; or by the works of his providence, for that also hath a voice. What answer God will give to these my prayers. For I am assured, from God’s gracious nature and declared will and promise, that he will give an answer of peace.

And to his saints; which clause seems to be added by way of explication and restriction, to show that this glorious privilege did not belong to all that were called God’s people, but only to those that were truly and really such, even to his saints or holy ones. To folly, i.e. to sin, which in Scripture is commonly called

folly. This is added as a necessary caution; but when God shall speak peace to his people, let them not grow wanton and secure, nor return to their former wicked courses; which if they do, they will provoke God to repent of his kindness to them, and to inflict further and sorer judgments upon them. Others render the place, and they will not, or that they may not, return to folly. But the particle al being prohibitive, our translation seems to be better.

Verse 9

His salvation; that complete salvation and deliverance for which all the Israel of God do pray and wait, even the redemption of Israel by the Messiah; of which not only Christian, but even Jewish, writers understand this place; and to which the following passages do most properly and perfectly belong. And the psalmist might well say of this salvation that it was nigh, because the seventy weeks determined by Daniel for this work, Daniel 9:24, were now begun, this Psalm being written after Daniel’s time.

Them that fear him; the true Israel of God, even all those that love and fear him; by which words he both excludes all hypocritical Israelites from this salvation, and tacitly assigns it to all that fear God, whether Jews or Gentiles. And when that salvation shall come, we shall be freed from all that scorn and contempt under which we now groan, and shall recover our ancient glory; and the glorious presence of God, the most eminent tokens whereof we have now utterly lost; and the God of glory himself, even Christ, who is called the brightness of his Father’s glory, Hebrews 1:3; compare John 1:14; and the glory of Israel, Luke 2:32; shall come and visibly dwell in this now despised land.

Verse 10

This is to be understood, either,

1. Of these graces or virtues in men. So the sense is, When that blessed time shall come, those virtues which now seem to be banished from human societies shall be restored, and there shall be a happy conjunction of mercy, or benignity; truth, or veracity;

righteousness, or faithfulness; and peace, or peaceableness and concord. Or rather,

2. Of the blessings of God, of which the whole context speaks. And the sense is, That great work of redemption by Christ shall clearly manifest and demonstrate God’s mercy in redeeming his people of Israel, and in the calling and conversion of the Gentiles; his

truth, in fulfilling that great promise of the sending of his Son, which is the foundation of all the rest; his righteousness, in punishing sin or unrighteousness in his Son, and in conferring righteousness upon guilty and lost creatures; and his peace, or reconciliation to sinners, and that peace of conscience which attends upon it.

Kissed each other; as friends use to do when they meet. See Exodus 4:27; Exodus 18:7. So this is another expression of the same thing.

Verse 11

Truth shall spring out of the earth; either,

1. Truth among men, which shall be so common amongst all men, as if it grew out of the earth. Or rather,

2. The truth or faithfulness of God; which is most truly and fitly said to spring out of the earth, partly because it had long been hid and buried, like

a root in a dry ground, without any hopes of a reviving; from whence yet God made it to grow, as is noted, Isaiah 53:2; and partly because Christ, who is the truth, John 14:6, and a minister of the circumcision (i.e. of the circumcised, or of the Jews)

for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers, was born upon the earth of a virgin’s womb.

Righteousness shall look down from heaven; even God’s justice, which was offended with men, shall then be satisfied, and shall through Christ look down upon sinful men with a reconciled and smiling countenance.

Verse 12

That which is good, i.e. all that is good in itself and for us, all spiritual and temporal blessings.

Verse 13

Go before him, as his harbinger or attendant. He shall work and fulfil all righteousness, he shall glorify and satisfy the righteousness of God, and shall advance the practice of righteousness and holiness among men.

Shall set us in the way of his steps, i.e. shall cause us to walk in those righteous ways wherein he walketh, and which he hath prescribed to us. But this us is not in the Hebrew, and may seem too liberal a supplement. And the words may be, and are by almost all other interpreters, rendered otherwise, he (i.e. God) shall set (which may note his stability and constancy in so doing) it (to wit, righteousness last mentioned) in the way of his steps, i.e. in the way wherein he walketh. So the sense of this last clause is the same for substance with the former, as is very usual in this book; righteousness in that clause goes before him, and in this it goes along with him.

Bibliographical Information
Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Psalms 85". Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.