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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 118

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-4

Psa 118:1-4

Psalms 118

A HYMN OF PRAISE TO GOD BECAUSE THE

REJECTED STONE HAS BECOME THE HEAD OF THE CORNER

A MESSIANIC PROPHECY OF THE SON OF GOD

A PSALM OF DAVID

We find ourselves unable to accept the dictum of most present-day scholars that, "This is a marching song sung by the pilgrims not yet arrived coming to Jerusalem to worship,” or that it is a national hymn, "Referring to the whole congregation of Israel.” Neither of these views is tenable.

(1) Regarding the liturgical explanation (pilgrims marching to the Temple), as Addis admitted, "It is impossible to recover the original arrangement in detail.” Furthermore, how did all those marching pilgrims bring the goats, and the sheep and oxen for the sacrifices, all the while singing as they came? We simply can’t see it in this psalm. Besides this, "There is little agreement on the specific persons who speak” in various verses of the psalm.

(2) The "national hymn" interpretation. This is simply preposterous, because the personal pronouns, "I," "my" and "me" occur thirty times in twenty-five verses (Psalms 118:5-29). The psalm is intensely personal.

(3) The language of the psalm could not possibly have been spoken by a group of singers. Such expressions as, "I will cut them off," repeated three times in Psalms 118:10-12, presumes an authority that no group of singers, no priest, or even the whole nation of Israel had in their possession. Language such as this belongs only in the mouth of a king. Only a powerful king enjoying the blessings of God Himself could have "cut off nations" as indicated in these verses.

Barnes and others have downgraded the idea that the authorship and occasion of the psalm can now be determined.

"The common opinion has been that it is a psalm of David, and that it was composed when his troubles with Saul ceased, and when he became recognized as king. Some have referred it to Hezekiah ... others to the return from Babylon ... others to the times of the Maccabees. It would be useless to examine these opinions. They are all conjectures, and no certainty is possible.”

Nevertheless, it appears to us as a certainty that David is the author and that the psalm was written upon the occasion of the final defeat of King Saul and of David’s coming to the throne of Israel. The whole psalm fits this assumption perfectly.

Supporting this interpretation is the fact that both Christ and the apostles applied what happened to David in this psalm to the Lord Jesus Christ, which indeed is proper enough because David was the Old Testament Type of Christ. It is the wealth of New Testament references to this psalm, therefore, which confirms our view of the Davidic and Messianic character of the composition.

Psalms 118:1-4

INTRODUCTION

"O give thanks unto Jehovah; for he is good;

For his lovingkindness endureth forever.

Let Israel now say,

That his lovingkindness endureth forever.

Let the house of Aaron now say,

That his lovingkindness endureth forever.

Let them now which fear Jehovah say,

That his lovingkindness endureth forever."

If this song was composed by King David upon the occasion of his offering a sacrifice of thanksgiving for God’s raising him to the throne of Israel, such a triple repetition of praising God’s lovingkindness appears understandable and highly appropriate. We discussed the "three groups" mentioned here under Psalms 115:11. It appears reasonable enough to suppose that upon the occasion of the king’s coming to the tabernacle, the singers would indeed have chanted such an introduction as this.

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 118:1. Appreciative servants of God will thank him for the simple fact of his goodness. That appreciation will be increased upon considering that the good attitude of the Lord is everlasting, thus holding out encouragement for the endless future.

Psalms 118:2-3. The goodness of God will be a fact whether anyone ever acknowledges it or not. But Israel (the congregation in general), and the house of Aaron (the priestly family in particular), are called upon to express their appreciation of the fact.

Psalms 118:4. This verse is still more general than the preceding two. Anyone in any station of life who professes to fear God is asked to make acknowledgement of it.

Verses 5-7

Psa 118:5-7

Psalms 118:5-7

"Out of my distress I called upon Jehovah:

Jehovah answered me and set me in a large place.

Jehovah is on my side; I will not fear:

What can man do unto me?

Jehovah is on my side among them that help me:

Therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me."

"And set me in a large place" (Psalms 118:5). The palace of the king of Israel would indeed qualify for such a designation.

"I will not fear what man can do unto me" (Psalms 118:6). The author of Hebrews quoted this making it applicable to Christians in Hebrews 13:6.

"Therefore shall I see my desire upon them that hate me" (Psalms 118:7). David indeed lived to see the death of King Saul, and the fierce partisans who had attempted to kill him, either dispersed and powerless, or slain in battle.

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 118:5. Large place means a place of liberty, so that one would not be hampered by the conditions. That from which David had been relieved was a condition of distress. The Lord heard when the Psalmist prayed for deliverance and granted his petition.

Psalms 118:6. On my side is worded "for me" in the marginal rendering which is correct. It is the same thought that Paul expressed in Romans 8:31.

Psalms 118:7. This verse contains the same thought as the preceding one, except that it is more specific. The other merely said that God was for David; this shows to what extent he was for him namely, he helped him in his time of need.

Verses 8-9

Psa 118:8-9

Psalms 118:8-9

"It is better to take refuge in Jehovah

Than to put confidence in man.

It is better to take refuge in Jehovah

Than to put confidence in princes."

No one in ancient history had found the word of princes any more unreliable than had David, His first great disappointment was with Saul the king of Israel.

"It is better to take refuge in Jehovah" (Psalms 118:8-9). Why is it "better?" Barnes answered that question: "(1) It is better because man is weak ... God is Almighty; (2) man is selfish ... God is benevolent; (3) man is often treacherous and deceitful ... God is faithful; and (4) in some emergencies, such as death, man cannot help ... God can assist us in any extremity.”

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 118:8-9. Whether one considers man in general, or the special classes such as princes, it is better to trust in the Lord than in them.

Verses 10-12

Psa 118:10-12

Psalms 118:10-12

"All nations compassed me about:

In the name of Jehovah I will cut them off.

They compassed me about, yea they compassed me about:

In the name of Jehovah I will cut them off.

They compassed me about like bees; they are

quenched as the fire of thorns:

In the name of Jehovah I will cut them off."

"All nations compassed me about" (Psalms 118:10). When David ascended the throne of Israel, the Philistines had just succeeded in killing Saul; and the Moabites, Ammonites, and Edomites in a sense "surrounded" Israel.

"In the name of Jehovah I will cut them off" (Psalms 118:10-12). Rawlinson called these terse pledges, "a conviction,” but they are not a conviction, they are a "promise and a pledge" on the part of the author of the psalm, which can hardly be any other person than king David. Certainly no priest, nor a band of singers, nor even the nation of Israel itself could have made such a pledge. The words fit the mouth of king David; and furthermore, he did exactly what he here said he would do.

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 118:10. Various peoples had opposed David and envied him because of his exalted position. Destroy them is rendered "cut them off" in the margin of the Bible, and the Lexicon agrees with it. The meaning is that he would cut short the attempts of his enemies to destroy him.

Psalms 118:11. They means the same evil people referred to in the preceding verse. To compass means to surround for the purpose of capturing someone. These enemies of David thought to take such an advantage of him, but he expected to destroy (cut short) them.

Psalms 118:12. The comparison is not especially to the bee as an individual insect, but rather to the fact that bees swarm in great numbers. But regardless of their great number, the enemies of David were to be destroyed (cut off or cut short).

Verses 13-17

Psa 118:13-17

Psalms 118:13-17

"Thou didst thrust sore at me that I might fall;

But Jehovah helped me.

Jehovah is my strength and song;

And he is become my salvation.

The voice of rejoicing and salvation is the tents of the righteous.

The right hand of Jehovah doeth valiantly.

The right hand of Jehovah is exalted:

The right hand of Jehovah doeth valiantly.

I shall not die, but live,

And declare the works of Jehovah."

"Thou didst thrust sore at me" (Psalms 118:13). The "thou" here is a reference to the enemies that encompassed David.

"Rejoicing in the tents of the righteous" (Psalms 118:15). These were the faithful followers of the Lord who had supported David in his long and bitter contest with the wicked Saul.

"I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of Jehovah" (Psalms 118:17). King Saul had devoted all the resources of the kingdom to accomplish the death of David; and for a long while the issue was in doubt; but victory at the time of this psalm had been won. Saul was dead and David was on the throne.

"Some of these verses refer to a symbolical humiliation of the king,” as McCaw stated it, and this is the viewpoint of a number of commentators, but there is no evidence that there was anything "symbolical" about the death threats against David. There was nothing symbolical about that javelin that Saul cast at David with the intention of thrusting him through. It is our conviction that most of the commentators are simply wrong about this psalm. All that imagination about the liturgical procession of the singers is simply not in the picture at all.

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 118:13. Thou refers to the enemy who had been persecuting David. The wicked intention of the foe had been cut short by the Lord. Psalms 118:14. Strength and song is a fine combination. Because David was strengthened by the Lord, he would praise Him in song. The importance of that strength was indicated by the fact that it brought salvation to David.

Psalms 118:15. Tabernacles is used in the sense of assemblies or groups. Such groups who are righteous only have the right to rejoice in salvation. Paul taught a like principle in Philippians 3:1. Right hand of the Lord means that whatever is done by the hand of the Lord is right.

Psalms 118:16. Right hand is explained in the preceding verse. ‘

Psalms 118:17. David’s enemies would wish him to die. Their expectations were to be disappointed, for David was assured of continuing in life, and of being permitted to declare the works of God to the generations to come.

Verses 18-20

Psa 118:18-20

Psalms 118:18-20

"Jehovah hath chastened me sore;

But he hath not given me over to death.

Open to me the gates of righteousness:

I will enter into them, I will give thanks unto Jehovah.

This is the gate of Jehovah;

The righteous shall enter into it."

"Jehovah hath chastened me sore" (Psalms 118:18). The hardships, sufferings, anxieties, and constant threat of death that hounded the steps of David during the final years of Saul’s reign fully qualify as the object of such a reference as this. David rejoiced that, at least, God had saved him from death. Therefore King David will enter the Tabernacle with thanksgivings, sacrifices, and praises to God.

"The gates of righteousness" (Psalms 118:19). This means that only the righteous were supposed to enter; but, of course, the wicked also found their way through the gates on occasion. Some of the wickedest people in history were the evil High Priests of Israel, Annas and Caiaphas being those who engineered the crucifixion of the Messiah.

This was the gate of "righteousness" in another sense. God’s presence was manifested in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle; and, as Delitzsch pointed out, "The word `righteousness’ comprehends within itself all of the attributes of God mentioned in Exodus 34:6 ff."

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 118:18. David believed that the opposition of his enemies was an instrument in God’s hands to test his faith. He was aware that it would not go far enough to slay him.

Psalms 118:19. Gates of righteousness is a figure of speech, meaning the ways of right doing. It is similar in thought to the expression "door of opportunity." The direct meaning of David was that as the Lord showed him the good and the right way, he would gladly walk therein all the days of his life.

Psalms 118:20. The Psalmist identifies the gates of righteousness of the preceding verse by the words gates of the Lord in this verse. He furthermore declares that the righteous will enter thereat.

Verses 21-24

Psa 118:21-24

Psalms 118:21-24

THE REJECTED ONE HAS BECOME KING

"I will give thanks unto thee; for thou has answered me,

And art become my salvation.

The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner.

This is Jehovah’s doings;

It is marvelous in our eyes.

This is the day which Jehovah hath made;

We will rejoice and be glad in it."

"I will give thanks unto thee" (Psalms 118:21). Notice the pronoun "I." It is the psalmist who speaks, and we believe that psalmist to have been David. Having been elevated to the throne, he is here in the Tabernacle to worship God with sacrifice, thanksgiving and praise.

"The stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner" (Psalms 118:22). It is our conviction, as Jesus Christ himself said, that David spoke "In the Spirit of God": and we hold this sentence to have been a divinely-inspired prophecy. There is no recollection here of some Jewish proverb, or tradition; this is brand new prophecy of what will be in the future. The occasion for the remark was that David, rejected and hated by the Royal House of Israel, had now become the head of the nation; and David was inspired of God to phrase it in the terminology used here.

These marvelous words were fulfilled twice in the times subsequent to those of King David.

(1) They were fulfilled in the building of the temple, either that of Solomon, or the second temple, as Dummelow thought. It makes no difference, for David wrote before either was built. That is what is so wonderful about this prophecy.

Dean Plumptre said, "The illustration seems to have been drawn from one of the stones, quarried, hewn, and marked, away from the site of the temple, which the builders, ignorant of the head architect’s plans, had put to one side, as having no place in the building, but was found afterwards to be that on which the completeness of the structure depended, as the chief corner stone"!

(2) The second fulfillment and the Great One was in Jesus Christ who applied the words to himself.

Did ye never read the scriptures? The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner; This was from the Lord, And it is marvelous in our eyes (Matthew 21:42).

Besides the parallel accounts in the synoptic gospels, this figure of the "chief corner stone" is mentioned in Ephesians 2:20; Acts 4:11; and 1 Peter 2:4; 1 Peter 2:7.

It appears to this writer as extremely improbable that Christ would have been referring in this passage to some accident like that mentioned by Plumptre (quoted above). He was referring to what the great Old Testament Type of Christ, King David, had written "in the scriptures." McCullough’s fancy that Christ was here quoting what "may have been a proverb" is flatly denied by the words of Christ himself. The analogy is that just as the rejected David had become King, so the rejected Christ would be the head of the Kingdom of God on earth.

In the analogy of Christ as the chief cornerstone: (1) law and grace; (2) God and man; (3) time and eternity; (4) B.C. and A.D.; (5) the Mosaic Dispensation and the Christian Dispensation; (6) the letter and the spirit; and (7) judgment and mercy, both begin and end in Christ, thus forming in a metaphor a true corner in Christ.

Some have objected to understanding this prophecy as Messianic, on the basis, "The psalmist here was saved from death, but Christ died." This is worthless as an objection. Of course, David did die, as did Christ; but both David and our Lord were the objects of many attempts to murder them. Herod tried to murder the child Jesus; the citizens of Nazareth tried to throw him off a cliff; and the Pharisees plotted to have him assassinated (Matthew 26:4).

"This is Jehovah’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes" (Psalms 118:23). It was God who brought David to the throne of Israel; and it was equally true that God Himself protected and blessed Jesus of Nazareth until his "time had come" to make the Great Atonement.

"This is the day which Jehovah hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it" (Psalms 118:24). What a glorious day it was for David. The hazardous fleeing day and night from the murderous intentions of Saul was over. He was king; his followers were rejoicing all over Israel. God had indeed made it a day of great rejoicing.

But there was a great day of rejoicing of which that was only a feeble symbol. That more glorious day is the Day of Redemption in Christ Jesus. It was the day when Christ was born, and heaven itself broke into songs of praise and rejoicing. It was the day when an angel of God said, "HE IS NOT HERE; HE IS RISEN"!

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 118:21. David was ever ready to give God the praise for all blessings. Become my salvation here has special reference to his escape from the hands of his enemies.

Psalms 118:22-23. I have put these verses into one paragraph because it requires both to complete the quotation of Jesus in Matthew 21:42 and Mark 12:10. Since our Saviour made the application to himself we know we are correct in considering this passage as a prophecy of Christ and his work on earth. It had special application to the action of the Jewish people in rejecting Christ, whom God afterward exalted to be the head piece in the great edifice of salvation, the church. This is the Lord’s doing means that it would be the Lord of Heaven who would reverse the work of the Jews and exalt him whom they had tried to debase. No wonder that it was such a marvelous thing in their eyes, for they were completely baffled in their wicked designs.

Psalms 118:24. Day is from YOM, and a part of Strong’s definition is, "figuratively a space of time defined by an associated term." In the King James version it has been rendered by day, time, age, season, space, year, and many others. Thus we need not just think of a 24-hour period, but of an age or epoch. The context shows the Psalmist was making a prediction of the Christian Dispensation, which was ushered into being by the exaltation of this head stone over all things to the church. Made is from a Hebrew word that has been rendered by such English words as accomplish, appoint, bring forth, fashion, grant and prepare. Hence the verse means that God ordained the day or age or period of Christ’s reign, and all of us should rejoice in it.

Verse 25

Psa 118:25

Psalms 118:25

"Save now, we beseech thee, O Jehovah:

O Jehovah, we beseech thee, send now prosperity."

How appropriately that a prayer like this would have been said by David upon his coming into power. The Philistines had ravaged the country and killed the king. The affairs of Israel were in a sorry mess; and David, mindful of his responsibilities, prays that God will bless Israel "now" with prosperity.

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 118:25. Having interrupted his line for a prophecy concerning his illustrious Descendant, the Psalmist resumes where he had stopped. The prosperity he requested was not the temporal kind for he already had that in abundance. He meant for the Lord to prosper him in his conflicts with the foes of righteousness.

Verse 26

Psa 118:26

Psalms 118:26

"Blessed be he that cometh in the name of Jehovah:

We have blessed you out of the house of Jehovah."

This is the response of the tabernacle authorities to the king’s appearance in the tabernacle and to his bringing of the sacrifice. They first address the king, whether in song or speech is not known, nor is it of any importance. They pronounce a blessing upon him, saying at the same time, "We have blessed you out of (from) the house of the Lord."

"Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Psalms 118:26). These words were addressed to David, the Type of Christ; and we are not surprised that the same words were spoken of Christ himself. The multitude of Jerusalem cried out saying of Jesus, "Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest"! (Matthew 21:9). And in his lament over Jerusalem, Jesus himself applied the words to his First Advent, saying, "Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord" (Matthew 23:39).

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 118:26. The first clause is a general statement that could have been said in any age of the world. It has no specific application as to when or by whom the coming would be done. You refers to anyone who had qualified under the terms of the first clause. The blessing upon all such was to proceed from the house of the Lord.

Verse 27

Psa 118:27

Psalms 118:27

"Jehovah is God, and he hath given us light:

Bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar."

These continue to be the words either of the priests or the singers under their direction. What is indicated is the acceptance of King David’s sacrifice. It is such a large one that it will not lie upon the altar, as normally, but it will have to be bound with cords, using the horns of the altar to secure it.

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 118:27. For the peculiar meanings of God and Lord see the comments at Psalms 86:12. When anything is bound it is secure. As a figure, indicating the steadfastness of his devotions to God, the Psalmist bids the sacrifices to be fastened to the altar with cords.

Verses 28-29

Psa 118:28-29

Psalms 118:28-29

Again, it is the king who speaks, closing the ceremony with the following prayer.

"Thou art my God, and I will give thanks unto thee:

Thou art my God, I will exalt thee.

Oh give thanks unto Jehovah; for he is good.

For his lovingkindness endureth forever."

The psalm ends with the same verse with which it began. The newly enthroned king acknowledges his status as a servant of God, promising to give thanks to Him and to exalt Him.

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 118:28. Again see the meaning of God at Psalms 86:12.

Psalms 118:29. This verse is a summing up of the words of adoration with which the chapter abounded. God’s goodness is worthy to be praised because it includes mercy, and the mercy is the kind that never faileth.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Psalms 118". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/psalms-118.html.
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