Bible Commentaries
Psalms 60

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


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

This Psalm is supposed to have been written by David, after the tribes of Israel had submitted to his sceptre, and he was settled in the throne, upon occasion of an illustrious victory, with which God had blessed his forces, over the Syrians and Edomites. See 2 Samuel chap. 5. and 8. He was then in the zenith of his prosperity, and the affairs of his kingdom seem to have been in a better state than ever they were either before or after. He describes what Israel had lately suffered from foreign enemies and domestic feuds, while God had been contending with them, Psalms 60:1-3 . Notices the happy turn God had given to their affairs, and prays for deliverance from all their enemies, Psalms 60:4 , Psalms 60:5 . Triumphs in hope of being victorious over them all, and of subduing and adding to his empire Edom, Moab, and Philistia. 6-8. In order to which he prays for the divine aid, and declares that his trust was in the mighty power of God, and not in the arm of flesh, Psalms 60:9-12 .

Title. Upon Shushan-eduth This seems to have been the name of a musical instrument, hymn, or tune, then well known, but now quite unknown. Dr. Waterland and Houbigant render the words, Upon the hexachord of the testimony. Others render them, Upon the lily of the testimony, or oracle: but why it was so called is a matter of mere conjecture, and of small importance to us. Michtam of David, to teach Namely, in an eminent manner; or, for the special instruction of God’s church and people, in some points of great moment; as concerning the grievous calamities to which God’s church and people were obnoxious, (Psalms 60:1-3,) and the certainty of God’s promises, and of their deliverance out of them, upon condition of their faith and obedience. Which doctrines were of great moment, especially to the Israelites, who were, and were likely to be, exercised in the same manner, and with the same variety and vicissitudes of condition, under which their ancestors had been. When he strove with Aram-naharaim That is, Syria of the rivers; or, that part of it which is called Mesopotamia, as lying between the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates. The Syrians, both here and in other places, were called Aram, because they were the descendants of Aram, the son of Shem, Genesis 10:22. Aram-zobah is that part of Syria which was called Zobah, 2 Samuel 8:5. As David’s victory over Idumea was different from that over the Syrians, the next clause should be rendered literally, And Joab returned, &c. This conquest of Joab’s is to be looked upon as distinct from that of Abishai, mentioned 2 Samuel 8:13; 1 Chronicles 18:12. After Abishai had slain eighteen thousand of the Idumeans, Joab fell upon them again; and, as the title of this Psalm particularly informs us, smote in the same place twelve thousand more, and afterward destroyed them entirely. See 1 Kings 11:15-16. The valley of Salt is in Idumea, near the Dead sea.

Verse 1

Psalms 60:1. O God, thou hast cast us off So highly had our sins provoked thy divine majesty, that thou didst reject or forsake us, so as to withdraw thy gracious and powerful presence from us, and no longer to go forth with our armies. Thus the Psalm begins with a melancholy memorial of the many disgraces and disappointments with which God had, for some years past, chastised the people. For, during the reign of Saul, especially in the latter part of it, and during David’s struggle with the house of Saul, while he reigned over Judah only, the affairs of the kingdom were much perplexed, and the neighbouring nations were very vexatious to them. Thou hast scattered us Hebrew, פרצתנו , peratztanu, thou hast broken us; partly by that dreadful overthrow by the Philistines, 1 Samuel 31:0., and partly by the civil war in our own country between Judah and Israel. Thou hast been displeased And thy displeasure, caused by our sins, has been the source of all our sufferings. Whatever our trouble may be, and whoever may be the instruments of it, we must own the righteous hand of God in it. O turn thyself to us again Be at peace with us; smile upon and take part with us, and we shall again have prosperity.

Verses 2-3

Psalms 60:2-3. Thou hast made the earth to tremble A poetical expression, signifying great and dreadful changes among the people. Heal the breaches thereof Reconcile all those differences which our civil wars have made among us. Thou hast showed thy people hard things Thou hast made us feel what it is to offend thee, by inflicting grievous punishments upon us; thou hast made us drink the wine of astonishment Thou hast fulfilled the words of thy servant Moses, Deuteronomy 28:34, for we have been like men bereft of the use of their reason by some intoxicating portion, and have madly destroyed one another.

Verses 4-5

Psalms 60:4-5. Thou hast given a banner, &c. But now thou hast granted the desires of those that devoutly worship and serve thee, and given an ensign to which all the tribes may repair. David, says Dr. Delaney, was the only centre of union which that people ever had, and God now made him their captain and ruler to manifest the truth of those promises which had been made to him long before. But the banner here is not only to be considered as a sign and instrument of their union, intimating that they, who were lately divided under several banners, should now be gathered together and united under one; but also of battle and war. As if he had said, Thou hast given us an army and power to oppose our enemies: we have our banner to set against theirs. Though the Philistines and other nations have long been too hard for us, by reason of our divisions, yet now thou hast united us under one government, that the people may unanimously fight against their enemies. To them that fear thee Or, for, or on behalf of, them that fear thee; an emphatical passage, implying that God gave this great blessing to the people of Israel for the sake of those few sincere Israelites, who were among them. That it may be displayed because of the truth Not for any merit of ours, but to show thy faithfulness in making good thy promises. That thy beloved may be delivered, &c. That by thy mighty power accompanying my arms, I may be an instrument of delivering thy beloved people from those that have oppressed them; save with thy right hand With thine own power: and with such instruments as thou art pleased to make use of. Observe, reader, they that fear God are his beloved; they are dear to him as the apple of his eye: they are often in distress, but they shall be delivered, for God’s own right hand shall save them.

Verse 6

Psalms 60:6. God hath spoken, &c. Having prayed that God would hear and save him, he now intimates that God had done it already, had prevented his prayers, and had spoken to him, and of him, about the establishing of his throne; in his holiness Or, rather, by his holiness, as this very expression, בקדשׁו , bekodsho, is rendered, Psalms 89:35. Which carries the form of an oath, and implies, that God did not simply speak, but swore by his holiness, as is there expressed. I will rejoice Therefore I will turn my prayers into praises, for what God has already done; and, as I am assured, will further do on my behalf. I will divide Shechem Namely, as a portion or inheritance, as אחלקה , achallekah, properly signifies. I will exercise dominion over, and distribute it to be possessed as I see good. Shechem was a place within Jordan in mount Ephraim. And mete out the valley of Succoth A place without Jordan. He mentions Shechem and Succoth for all the land of Canaan within and without Jordan, which, having been formerly divided between him and Ish-bosheth, was now entirely in his possession. Some, however, think that the expression is proverbial, and only means, I will divide the spoils of my enemies with as much ease as the sons of Jacob portioned out Shechem, and measured out for their tents the valley of Succoth.

Verse 7

Psalms 60:7. Gilead is mine All the land beyond Jordan, which was possessed by Reuben and Gad, and half of the tribe of Manasseh. And Manasseh is mine The other half of that tribe within Jordan. Ephraim is the strength, &c. A chief part of my strength, either to offend mine enemies, or to defend myself. For this tribe was very numerous, and valiant, and rich. Judah is my lawgiver The chief seat of my throne and kingdom, and of the inferior throne of judgment, Psalms 122:5. The tribe to which the royal sceptre and lawgiver were appropriated by divine appointment, Genesis 49:10. Thus he exultingly surveys his strength, Gilead and Manasseh comprehending the whole country beyond Jordan, as did Ephraim and Judah that on this side of it.

Verse 8

Psalms 60:8. Moab is my wash-pot The wash-pot being a mean article of household stuff, for the use of the feet, (as the Syriac interprets it,) the lowest part of the body, it is a fit title for the Moabites, whom David intended to bring into the lowest degree of servitude, and to render contemptible, 2 Samuel 8:2. Over Edom An old, proud, insolent, and cruel enemy of Israel; will I cast my shoe I will use them like slaves. I will, as it were, trample upon them; a proverbial expression. Philistia, triumph thou because of me Or, over me, as in former years thou didst use to triumph and insult over the poor Israelites. It is an ironical expression, signifying that her triumphs were to come to an end. Bishop Patrick gives a different interpretation to this clause, thus: “The Philistines likewise, whom I have begun to smite, shall add to my triumphs, and be forced to meet me as their conquering Lord.”

Verses 9-10

Psalms 60:9-10. Who will bring me into the strong city, &c. As if he had said, These are difficult things indeed; and I may well ask, when I consider how potent these nations are, By what power shall I enter that strongly fenced city? (or, cities rather, the singular number being put for the plural.) Who is it that will conduct me into Idumea, and make me master of it? None can do it but God. Having beaten his enemies out of the field, he desires God’s assistance to take their strong holds, and so secure himself from further attempts. Edom was a high and rocky country, Obadiah Psalms 60:3, fortified by nature, as well as by art, and therefore not to be subdued without a divine hand. Wilt not thou, &c., who didst not go out with our armies Namely, in former times; but now hast graciously returned to us. He brings to his own mind, and to the minds of the people, their former calamities, that they might be more thankful for present mercies and deliverances.

Verses 11-12

Psalms 60:11-12. Give us help from trouble Do not frustrate these hopes, but afford us thy help against the Syrians also 2 Samuel 8:5, who now distress us; for vain is the help of man No human force is able to deliver us; nor have we any confidence in it, but in thee alone. Observe well, reader, then only are we qualified to receive help from God, when we are brought to own the insufficiency of all creatures to do that for us which we expect him to do. Through God we shall do valiantly Through his help we shall behave ourselves courageously, and do valiant acts; for he it is that shall tread down our enemies And not we ourselves. Though we do ever so valiantly, the success must be attributed entirely to him. All our victories, as well as our valour, are from him, and therefore at his feet all our crowns must be laid. Observe again, reader, as it is only through God, and by the influence of his grace, that we can, at any time, do valiantly; as it is he that puts strength into us, and inspires us, who of ourselves are weak and timorous, with true courage and resolution; so confidence in him is the best principle, and chief means of this courage and fortitude. But we must remember this confidence must be so far from superseding, that it must encourage and quicken our endeavours in the way of duty. For though it is God that performeth all things for us, and worketh in us to will and to do, yet we must be workers together with him.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 60". Benson's Commentary. 1857.