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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 118

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2964. B.C. 1040.

This Psalm is supposed by Dr. Delaney to have been written by David after his victory over the Philistines, recorded 2 Samuel 23:12 ; 1 Chronicles 11:14 ; “and sung in the tabernacle as an epinicion, or hymn of thanksgiving to God for this victory. It begins, O give thanks, &c., and then goes on with such a flow of gratitude to God, such expressions of trust and confidence in him, and glory to him; and adds to all this such descriptions of his enemies, in such a variety of lights and images, as are the peculiar distinction of David’s genius.” (Life of David, b. 2. chap. 9.) The Psalm seems to be dramatical, or composed in the form of a dialogue, in which there are several interlocutors. The part from Psa 118:1-18 was sung by David. At Psa 118:19 he calls upon the Israelites to open the gates, that he might praise God in the sanctuary; and in Psa 118:20 the Israelites reply. David then seems to take up the strain at the 21st and 22d verses; the people at the 23d and 24th; David again at the 25th; the priests at the 26th and 27th; David at the 28th and 29th. This was the last of the Psalms which the Jews reckoned in their great hallel, or which they sung after their passover, and was therefore probably the conclusion of that hymn which Christ, with his disciples, sung after his last passover. It is plainly most suitable to the occasion; and the learned Jews, both ancient and modern, confess it to speak of the Messiah, to whom the writers of the New Testament have applied it. See Matthew 21:42 ; Acts 4:11 .

Verses 1-4

Psalms 118:1-4. O give thanks unto the Lord All sorts of persons, which are expressed particularly in the next three verses, as they are mentioned in like manner and order Psalms 115:9-11, where see the notes. Let Israel After the flesh, all the tribes and people of Israel, except the Levites. Let the house of Aaron The priests and Levites, who were greatly discouraged and oppressed in Saul’s time, but received great benefits under David’s government. Let them that fear the Lord The Gentile proselytes, of whom there were greater numbers in David’s time than formerly had been, and were likely to be still more. Say, that his mercy endureth for ever Not only in the everlasting fountain thereof, God himself, but in its never failing streams, which shall run parallel with the longest lines of eternity; and in the vessels of mercy, who will be for ever monuments of it. Israel, and the house of Aaron, and all that fear God, were called upon, Psalms 115:0., to trust in him. Here they are called upon to acknowledge his goodness, and join in the same thankful song, thus encouraging themselves to trust in him. Priests and people, Jews and proselytes, must all confess that his mercy endureth for ever; that they have had experience of it all their days, and that they confide in it for good things that shall last to all eternity.

Verses 5-7

Psalms 118:5-7. I called upon the Lord in distress As if he had said, You may see an example of the divine mercy in me, who was in grievous straits and dangers, but, imploring God’s protection and help, he answered me, and set me in a large place He not only delivered me, but placed me in a secure condition, free from all such molestation. Dr. Waterland renders the clause, The Lord answered me with enlargement. The Lord is on my side It is evident he takes my part; I will not fear, &c. Though I have many enemies, I am not afraid of them, for greater is he that is for me than all those that are against me. What can man do unto me? Man, a frail and impotent creature in himself, and much more when he is opposed to the almighty God. He can do nothing to me but what God permits him to do; nothing but what God can and will make to work for my good. The apostle quotes this verse with application to all true Christians, Hebrews 13:6. The Lord taketh my part, &c. He is present with my helpers, and enables them to defend me; therefore shall I see my desire, &c. I shall see my enemies defeated in their designs against me.

Verses 8-9

Psalms 118:8-9. It is better to trust in the Lord It is much safer, and more to a person’s comfort; than to put confidence in man As mine enemies do in their own numbers, and in their powerful confederates. “Armies of men, however numerous, and, to appearance, powerful, may be routed and dispersed at once: princes may not be able to help us; if able, they may fail us, as not being willing to do it; if both able and willing, they may die ere they can execute their purpose. But that hope which is placed in God, can never, by these or any other means, be disappointed.” Horne.

Verses 10-12

Psalms 118:10-12. All nations compassed me about The neighbouring nations, the Philistines, Syrians, Ammonites, Moabites, who were stirred up by the overthrows which David had given to some of them, by their jealousy at his growing greatness, and by their hatred against the true religion. Yea, they compassed me The repetition implies their frequency and fervency in this action, and their confidence of success. They compassed me like bees In great numbers, and with great fury. They are quenched In this sense the word דעךְ is taken, Job 6:17; Job 18:5-6; Job 21:17. The Seventy, however, render it εξεκαυθησαν , they burned, flamed out, or waxed exceeding fierce or vehement; that is, they raged against me like fire: with this interpretation the Chaldee agrees. As the fire of thorns Which flames out terribly, burns fiercely, and makes a crackling noise, but quickly spends itself without any considerable or lasting effect. For Or but, as the particle כי , chi, frequently signifies, and is twice rendered in this very phrase, Psalms 118:10-11. Thus, as the former part of the verse denotes their hostile attempt, this expresses their ill success and utter ruin. “The reader has here,” says Dr. Delaney, Life of David, book 2. chap. 9. p. 113, “in miniature, two of the finest images in Homer; which, if his curiosity demands to be gratified, he will find illustrated and enlarged in the second book of the Iliad. The first of them stands thus, transcribed from Mr. Pope’s translation:

The following host, Pour’d forth by thousands, darkens all the coast. As from some rocky cleft the shepherd sees, Clust’ring, in heaps on heaps, the driving bees, Rolling and black’ning, swarms succeeding swarms, With deeper murmurs and more hoarse alarms; Dusky they spread, a close-imbodied crowd, And o’er the vale descends the living cloud; So from the tents and ships, &c. V. 109, &c.

The next is in the same book, V. 534, &c.

As on some mountain, through the lofty grove,

The crackling flames ascend and blaze above,

The fires, expanding as the winds arise,

Shoot their long beams, and kindle half the skies;

So from the polished arms, and brazen shields,

A gleamy splendour flash’d along the fields.

Not less their number, &c.

The candid reader will observe, that here the idea of an arm’s resembling a flaming fire is common both to Homer and David; but the idea of that fire being quenched (when the army was conquered) is peculiar to David.”

Verses 13-14

Psalms 118:13-14. Thou hast thrust sore at me, &c. O mine enemy. The singular number may possibly be here put collectively for all his enemies; or, this apostrophe, which is strong, might be directed to some particular person in the battle, who had put David into great danger. The Lord is my strength and song The author of my strength, and therefore the just object of my praise; and is become my salvation The author of my protection and safety, and the source of my peace and comfort. Observe, reader, if God be our strength, he ought to be our song; if he work all our works in us, he ought to have all praise and glory from us. God is sometimes the strength of his people when he is not their song; they have spiritual supports when they want spiritual delights; but if he be both to us, we have indeed abundant reason to triumph in him.

Verses 15-18

Psalms 118:15-18. The voice of rejoicing and salvation That is, of rejoicing and thanksgiving for the deliverances God hath wrought for them; is in the tabernacle of the righteous Because they clearly see God’s hand in the work, and therefore take pleasure in it. “There is a noise of them that sing for joy,” says Dr. Horne, “in the camp of the saints; the church militant resounds with thanksgiving and the voice of melody; paradise is restored below, and earth bears some resemblance of heaven, while these transporting hymns are sung in honour of our great Redeemer.” The right hand of the Lord doeth valiantly These seem to be the words of that song of joy and praise now mentioned. The right hand, &c., is exalted That is, hath appeared evidently, and wrought powerfully and gloriously on our behalf: for what difficulty can stand before God’s zeal and omnipotence? There is a spirit, as well as strength, in all his operations for his people. I shall not die By the hands of my enemies that seek my life; but live, and declare the works of the Lord That is, I shall live a monument of God’s mercy and power; his works shall be declared in me and by me; and I will make it the business of my life to praise and magnify God, looking upon that as the end of my preservation. Indeed, it is not worth while to live for any other purpose than to declare the works of God, for his honour, and the encouragement of others to serve and trust in him. Such as these were the triumphs of the Son of David; in the assurance he had of the success of his undertaking, and that the good pleasure of the Lord should prosper in his hands.

Verse 19

Psalms 118:19. Open to me the gates of righteousness O ye porters, appointed by God for this work, open the gates of the Lord’s tabernacle, where the rule of righteousness is kept and taught, and the sacrifices of righteousness are offered: “The faithful, like David and his people of old, demand admission into the courts of the Lord’s house, there to praise him for his great and manifold mercies. But we may extend our ideas much further, and consider the whole company of the redeemed as beholding the angels ready to unbar the gates of heaven, and throw open the doors of the eternal sanctuary, for the true disciples of the risen and glorified Jesus to enter in. Open ye, may believers exclaim, in triumph, to those celestial spirits, who delight to minister to the heirs of salvation; open ye the gates of righteousness, those gates through which nothing unclean can pass, that the righteous nation, which keepeth the truth, may enter in, Isaiah 26:2, and sing, with your harmonious choirs, the praises of Him who sitteth upon the throne, for he hath overcome the sharpness of death, and opened the kingdom of heaven to all believers.” Horne.

Verse 20

Psalms 118:20. This is the gate of the Lord These may be considered as the words of the Levites, the porters, returning this answer to the foregoing demand. 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 thou art one of those righteous ones to whom this of right belongs.

Verses 21-22

Psalms 118:21-22. I will praise thee, for thou hast heard me That is, “And now, being entered into the courts of thy tabernacle, O my gracious God, I pay thee my most humble thanks, for having so favourably heard the prayers which I put up to thee in my grievous afflictions in Saul’s reign, and for having now fully advanced me to the royal dignity.” The stone which the builders rejected, &c. That is, “I, (for they are the words of David,) whom the great men and rulers of the people rejected, (1 Samuel 26:19,) as the builders of a house do a stone, which they judge unfit to be employed in it: am now become king over Judah and Israel, and a type of that glorious king, who shall hereafter be in like manner rejected,

(Luke 19:14; Luke 20:17,) and then exalted by God, to be Lord of all the world, and the foundation of all men’s hopes and happiness.” The reader will observe, the commonwealth of Israel, and the church of God, are here, and elsewhere in the Scriptures, compared to a building, wherein, as the people were the stones, so the princes and rulers were the builders. And as these master-builders, here first referred to, rejected David, as an obscure and rebellious person, that ought not only to be refused as a governor in their state, but crushed and destroyed; so their successors rejected Jesus of Nazareth, as too poor and mean to be acknowledged for their expected Messiah; as an enemy to Moses, a friend to sinners, and a blasphemer against God, and therefore deserving death and everlasting destruction. The head stone of the corner, means that which joins the walls, and knits the building together; as David had now joined together the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah under his sole government, and as Christ joined together both Jews and Gentiles, as is beautifully set forth Ephesians 2:14-22. So that we have here an illustrious prophecy of the humiliation and exaltation of our Lord Jesus, of his sufferings, and the glory that should follow. And although David, in this noted prophecy, first alluded to himself, and his own condition, yet it is not to be doubted but that, having the prophetical Spirit, he foresaw the coming of Christ, and the ill usage he should meet with from the Jews, of which he speaks very particularly Psalms 22:0. and elsewhere; and that, having his thoughts much taken up with Christ, and the events of his kingdom, he had him principally in his eye, in these and the following words. 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.

Verse 23

Psalms 118:23. This is the Lord’s doing This strange event is the work of God, a peculiar effect of his omnipotent wisdom, performed not only without the help, but against all the artifices and forces of man. This and the preceding verse are thus read by Dr. Waterland: The stone, &c., is made the head of the corner; by the Lord is it so made, and it is marvellous, &c. Mudge renders the latter verse, this is from the Lord; it was impossible in our eyes. “It was the Lord’s doing, they said; in their eyes it was a thing beyond all possibility of belief:” which is the force of the original. The exaltation of David from a sheepfold to a throne was wonderful, especially considering the opposition made against it by the princes and rulers of Judah and Israel: but much more astonishing was the exaltation of Christ. For “what can be more truly marvellous, than that a person, put to death as a malefactor, and laid in the grave, should from thence arise immortal, and become the head of an immortal society; should ascend into heaven, being vested with unlimited power, and crowned with ineffable glory; and should prepare a way for the sons of Adam to follow him into those mansions of eternal bliss?”

Verses 24-25

Psalms 118:24-25. This is the day which the Lord hath made Or, sanctified, as a season never to be forgotten. “Of the day on which Christ arose from the dead, it may, with more propriety than of any other day, be affirmed, this is the day which Jehovah hath made. Then it was that the rejected stone became the head of the corner. A morning then dawned, which is to be followed by no evening; a brighter sun arose upon the world, which is to set no more; a day began which will never end; and night and darkness departed to return not again. Easter-day is, in a peculiar manner, consecrated to him who, by his resurrection, triumphed over death and hell. On that day, through faith, we triumph with him, we rejoice and are glad in his salvation.” Horne. Save now, I beseech thee Or, we beseech thee; for the clause may be rendered either way: and these may be either considered as the words of David, or, as some rather think, those of the Levites, or porters, 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.

Verse 26

Psalms 118:26. Blessed be he that cometh Namely, unto us, from whom he was long banished; or, unto the throne; or, he that cometh from his Father into the world, namely, the Messiah, known by the name of him that cometh, or was to come: see the margin. In the name of the Lord By command and commission from him, and for his service and glory. We earnestly pray that God would bless his person and government, and all his enterprises. 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,) do pray for, and, in God’s name, pronounce his blessing upon thee, and upon thy kingdom. So these are the words of the priests.

Verse 27

Psalms 118:27. God is the Lord God hath proved himself to be the Lord Jehovah, by the accomplishment of his promises: see the notes on Exodus 6:2-3. Or, as it is in the margin, the Lord, or Jehovah, is God, as was said upon another solemn occasion, 1 Kings 18:39. Or, is the mighty God, as this name of God, אל , eel, signifies, and as he showed himself to be, by this his mighty and wonderful work. Which hath showed us light Who hath scattered our dark clouds, and put us into a state of peace, safety, and happiness, which things are frequently signified by light in the Holy Scriptures. Or, who hath discovered, and will in due time send the Messiah, to be the light of the world, by whom he will more clearly and fully reveal his whole mind and will to us. Bind the sacrifice with cords unto the horns of the altar Which horns are supposed, by divers learned men, to have been made for this very use, that the beasts should be bound to them, and killed there; and this seems probable, from Exodus 29:11-12, and Leviticus 47., where we read, that the beasts were to be killed at 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. The words, however, may be interpreted thus: “Bind the sacrifice with cords, and bring it, so bound, unto the horns of the altar; which, after it is killed, are to be sprinkled with the blood of it.” “Perhaps,” says Henry, “the expression may have a peculiar significancy here; the sacrifice we are to offer to God, in gratitude for redeeming love, is ourselves; not to be slain upon the altar, but a living sacrifice to be bound to the altar. Our sacrifices are also to be those of prayer and praise, in which our hearts must be engaged and fixed, as the sacrifice was bound with cords to the horns of the altar, not to start back.”

Verses 28-29

Psalms 118:28-29. Thou art my God, and I will praise thee, &c. In these verses the psalmist subjoins his own thankful acknowledgments of divine goodness, in which he calls upon others to join with him, and give thanks unto the Lord, because his mercy endureth for ever Thus he concludes the Psalm as he began it, Psalms 118:1, for God’s glory must be the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, of all our addresses to him.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 118". Benson's Commentary. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-118.html. 1857.
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