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A.M. 2981. B.C. 1023.
This Psalm contains the ardent desires of a pious soul toward God; a pathetic expression of the benefits and joy resulting from his public service; and an encouragement of the people to make the ways to his house fair and passable. Bishop Patrick has given it as his opinion, that it was composed by some pious Levite when Sennacherib’s army had blocked up the way to Jerusalem, and hindered God’s people from waiting upon the service of God at the temple. But it seems much more probable that David was the author of it, partly because it is ascribed to no other; and partly because it is most agreeable to his style and condition, namely, his banishment or absence from the place of God’s worship, a condition in which he repeatedly was. He is supposed to have penned it, either in Saul’s time, which, however, does not suit with Psalms 84:7 , for then the tabernacle and ark were not in Zion; or rather during Absalom’s rebellion. The psalmist here declares his love to the ordinances of God, Psalms 84:1-3 . His sense of the happiness of those that enjoyed the benefit of attending them, Psalms 84:4-7 . Addresses to God a devout prayer, and expresses his fervent desire after him, his faith in him, and his conviction of the blessedness of those that put their trust in him, Psalms 84:8-12 .
Psalms 84:1-2. How amiable are thy tabernacles That is, thy tabernacle, termed tabernacles; either, 1st, Because it consisted of several parts; or, 2d, To denote its excellence; as behemoth, or beasts, is put for one eminent beast, (Job 40:15,) and wisdoms for excellent wisdom, Proverbs 1:20. My soul longeth, &c. With vehement desire, to tread again the courts of the Lord’s house, and join with his people in the holy worship there performed. Yea, even fainteth So the Seventy, reading εκλειπει ; the Hebrew, however, וגם כלתה , vegam caletha, is literally, yea, even is consumed, namely, with grief, for want of thine ordinances, with ardent longings to enjoy them, and with the delay of this comfort, and the disappointment of my hopes and expectations. My heart and my flesh crieth out My soul and body are pained; or the passion of my heart maketh my tongue cry out; for the living God To know and love him, and to enjoy his favour and communion with him.
Psalms 84:3. Yea, the sparrow hath found a house That is, a habitation, namely, a nest, as it follows. Even thine altar Or nigh thine altar, as the Hebrew particle, את , eth, often signifies, and is rendered by the Seventy and the Chaldee, Judges 4:11. In the Hebrew it is altars, namely, that of burnt-offerings, and the other of incense: near which these birds might be truly said to have their nests, if, as is probable, they were either in some part of the tabernacle or temple, in which the altars were; or in some buildings belonging to or near them. Thus Bishop Patrick understands the verse, whose paraphrase is, “It grieves me, O mighty Lord, whose subject I am, and infinitely engaged for thee, to see the very birds, who know nothing of thee, enjoy that liberty which is denied me; who am here lamenting my distance from thee, when the sparrows and the ring-doves” (Hebrew, דרור , deror, which the Seventy render τρυγων , a turtle, and others a wild-pigeon) “have their constant residence at thy house; and there live so undisturbed, that they build their nests, and bring forth their young in the rafters of it.” The passage, however, is interpreted somewhat differently by several expositors, who read it thus: My heart, &c., crieth out for the living God, ( yea, as a sparrow, till she finds a house, and a swallow a nest for herself, where to lay her young,) for thine altars, &c., that is, my heart, &c., crieth out for thine altars, &c. Or thus, “The sparrow findeth a house, &c., but when shall I find access to what I far prefer to a house of my own, the house of God?” Others again read, Even as the sparrow, that is, with the same joy and delight as the sparrow findeth her house, and the swallow (or wild-pigeon) her nest, where she hath laid (so שׁתה , shata, properly means) her young; so should I find thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my king and my God. This last seems the most just and easy exposition of the words. But whichsoever of the interpretations may be preferred, “the design of the passage,” as Dr. Horne has justly observed, “is evidently to intimate to us, that in the house, and at the altar of God, a faithful soul findeth freedom from care and sorrow, quiet of mind, and gladness of spirit; like a bird that has secured a little mansion for the reception and education of her young. And there is no heart endued with sensibility which doth not bear its testimony to the exquisite beauty and propriety of this affecting image.”
Psalms 84:4. Blessed, &c. “Here the metaphor is dropped, and the former sentiment expressed in plain language;” are they that dwell in thy house That constantly abide in, or frequently resort to, thy house; intending either the priests and Levites, who kept constant watch there; or such devout Jews as Anna, Luke 2:37, who were there continually. They will be still praising thee They are constantly employed in that blessed and glorious work, of praising and serving thee, in the place which thou hast appointed for that end. Observe, reader, “Blessed are, not the mighty and opulent of the earth, but they that dwell in God’s house, the ministers of the eternal temple in heaven, the angels and the spirits of just men made perfect; their every passion is resolved into love, every duty into praise; hallelujah succeeds hallelujah; they are still, for ever, praising thee. And blessed, next to them, are those ministers and members of the church here below, who, in disposition, as well as employment, do most resemble them.” Horne.
Psalms 84:5. Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee Who trusteth in thee as his only refuge, strength, and portion. Or, who had strength in, or rather, for, (as the Hebrew ב , beth, frequently signifies,) thee; that is, who hath (or who useth, for having is sometimes put for using: see Matthew 13:12; 1Co 7:2 ) ability of body, and mind for thee, and for thy service; or for that journey, which he here seems to insinuate, and which in the following words he particularly describes. For it must be remembered, that all the males of Israel were required to come to the tabernacle or temple thrice every year, Exodus 34:23-24; and that some of them lived at a great distance, and consequently, if they went, had to take a long and troublesome journey, which also might sometimes be attended with danger, and other inconveniences; and therefore such as wanted either courage or bodily strength, might be discouraged, or hindered from undertaking it, and so might be deprived of the benefit of enjoying God in his solemn and public worship. Which, though in some cases it might not be their sin, yet surely was a great affliction and infelicity; and, consequently, it was a blessed thing to be free from those impediments, as the psalmist here observes. In whose heart are the ways of them That is, of those men, who passing, &c., as in Psalms 84:6. But these words, of them, are not in the Hebrew; and, as several learned men have observed, disturb or obscure the sense. Others therefore seem to render the clause better, and more agreeably to the Hebrew text, thus: In whose heart are thy ways, (the pronoun thy being often understood,) namely, those ways which lead to thy house; or, the ways, so called, by way of eminence, the ways of, or to, Zion, (as they are called, Lamentations 1:4,) as appears from Psalms 84:7. Thus the meaning is, Blessed are they whose thoughts and affections are strongly fixed upon the highways leading to Zion, and upon their journeys thither; who have both strength of body, as is said in the former clause, and readiness of mind, as is here added, to go to Zion; which are the two qualifications requisite for that journey. Blessed are they whose hearts are so set upon Zion, that they are, from time to time, exciting themselves and others, saying, Arise, let us go up to Zion, unto the Lord our God, Jeremiah 31:6. “Such a company of sojourners are true Christians going up to the heavenly Jerusalem: such ought to be their trust in God, and such the subject of their thoughts.” Horne.
Psalms 84:6. Who passing Or, being used to pass; for he seems not to speak of one particular act, but of a common course or custom; through the valley of Baca A place so called, which some Jewish and other writers affirm to have been a very dry place, and therefore incommodious for travellers in those hot countries, and in hot seasons. Which place may be here mentioned, not exclusively of other ways; for this highway being but one, and on one side of Jerusalem, could not be a general way for all the Israelites thither; but synecdochically for all places of like nature, which made their journey to Jerusalem unpleasant or inconvenient. But their zeal for God’s service did easily overcome this and other difficulties. Or the clause may be rendered, the valley of tears, as this valley might be called, for the trouble or vexation which travellers found there by reason of drought, or other inconveniences. Make it a well Or, wells; that is, they dig divers little pits or wells in it for their relief. This trouble they willingly undertook, rather than to neglect the opportunity of going up to Jerusalem at their solemn times. And possibly they did this, not only for themselves, but for the benefit of other travellers who came after them; whereby they showed both their piety and charity. The rain also filleth the pools God recompenseth their diligence in making pits, or cisterns, with his blessing, sending rain wherewith they may be filled, and the thirsty travellers refreshed. It may be proper to inform the reader, that the words may be rendered more agreeably to the Hebrew text, yea, or also pools, or cisterns; that is, they make pools or cisterns, which the rain filleth, or, may fill; which may receive and keep the rain that God sendeth for the refreshment of these travellers, whose great numbers made the provision of water more necessary. But it is not necessary to understand this, and the foregoing clause, of what these passengers did for their own use, as they travelled through this, or such like places; but it may be meant of what pious persons had done before that time; who, having their hearts set upon God’s house, and the ways leading to it, and being desirous to advance the worship of God, and to encourage the people to come to Jerusalem, endeavoured to make those ways easy and convenient; and particularly because those eastern countries were hot and dry, and springs of water were scarce there.
Psalms 84:7. They go from strength to strength The farther they travel onward in that way, instead of being faint and weary, as travellers in such cases are wont to be, they grow stronger and stronger, being greatly refreshed with the comfortable end of their journey, expressed in the following words. Or, they go from company to company. For they used to travel in troops or companies, for many reasons, and some companies were before others accordingly as they were nearer to the place of worship, or more diligent or more expeditious in travelling. And such as were most zealous would use their utmost endeavours to outstrip others, and to overtake one company of travellers after another, that so they might come with the first unto God in Zion. Every one appeareth before God This is here added, as the blessed design and fruit of their long and tedious journey, as that which put life into them, and made them bear all inconveniences with great cheerfulness they are all graciously admitted into the presence of God in Zion. But the words are and may be otherwise rendered, until every one of them appears before the God of gods in Zion. Or, the God of gods shall be seen (or, useth to appear, or, manifest himself) in Zion. Which is mentioned in the close, as the reason of that affection and industry which are described in the foregoing passages.
Psalms 84:8-9. O Lord God of hosts Who canst easily remove and subdue those enemies who banish and keep me from the place of thy worship; hear my prayer In restoring me to thy house and service; which is my chief desire, Psalms 84:2-3. Behold, O God our shield Look graciously upon me, O thou that takest thy people under thy peculiar protection, pursuant to thy covenant with Abraham our father, and who hast hitherto been our defence against the most powerful enemies; and look upon the face of thine anointed Upon me, who, though a vile sinner, am thine anointed king. Or, by God’s anointed, he may mean Christ, whose proper name is the Messiah, or, the anointed One. So the sense may be, Lord, I deserve not one kind look from thee, because, by my great wickedness, I have procured thy just displeasure and this banishment; but look upon thy Christ, whose coming and meritorious passion, though future to us, are present to thee, and for his sake look upon me.
Psalms 84:10. A day in thy courts is better than a thousand Namely, elsewhere; which is necessary to complete the sense; or, in the tents of wickedness; which may be supplied out of the next clause. Such ellipses are usual in Scripture. “One day spent in meditation and devotion affordeth a pleasure, far, far superior to that which an age of worldly prosperity could give. Happier is the least and lowest of the servants of Jesus than the greatest and most exalted potentate who knoweth him not.” I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God Which was generally considered as a mean and contemptible office, and belonged to the common Levites, 1 Chronicles 9:19; and 1 Chronicles 26:1, and therefore might seem very dishonourable for David; than to dwell in the tents of wickedness Than to live in the greatest glory, and plenty, and pleasure; which is often the lot of the wicked, Psalms 17:14; Psalms 73:6-7. “He is no proper judge of blessedness who hesitates a moment to prefer the condition of a penitent in the porch to that of a sinner on the throne. If this be the case upon earth, how much more in heaven! O come that one glorious day, whose sun shall never go down, nor any cloud obscure the lustre of his beams; that day, when the temple of God shall be opened in heaven, and we shall be admitted to serve him for ever therein!” Horne.
Psalms 84:11. The Lord God is a sun To enlighten, quicken, direct, and comfort all his people; whereas they that live without God in the world walk in darkness and know not whither they go, as is said John 12:35; and shield To defend them from all their enemies, and from those dreadful and destructive miseries which attend all other men. The Lord will give grace His favour and friendship, which are better than life. Psalms 63:3. And all the blessed fruits of it, especially the influences, gifts, and graces of his Spirit; and glory Not the vain glory and splendour of this world, of which David would not have spoken so magnificently, because, upon all occasions, he expresses a great contempt of these things; but the honour which comes from God here, and that eternal and ineffable glory laid up for God’s people in the future world. No good thing will he withhold Nothing that is truly good in itself, and which would be good for them. This should be well observed, because sometimes afflictions, which are evil in themselves, are good, and necessary, and highly advantageous to good men; while the good things of this world, as they are called, would be very hurtful to them, as is verified by frequent experiments. From them that walk uprightly That worship and serve God sincerely, and order their conversation aright. Which clause David seems to add designedly, to prevent or remove an objection against what he had now advanced, which might be taken from his own case, whereby it appeared that God was no such sun or shield to him, but exposed him to great and sore calamities. Of which, as being certain and evident, David here assigns the true reason, which was, not any defect in God’s goodness and all-sufficiency, but only his own gross misconduct, whereby he had clouded this sun, and cast away this shield, and forfeited these privileges by departing from his integrity.
Psalms 84:12. Blessed is the man that trusteth in thee Who, though he be deprived of the opportunity of paying that outward worship to thee which is appropriated to thy house; yet giveth thee that inward worship which is more valuable in thy account, and places his chief trust, and hope, and happiness in thee alone. Apply these two verses to the Lord Jesus: “He is a sun to enlighten and direct us in the way, and a shield to protect us against the enemies of our salvation; he will give grace to carry us on from strength to strength, and glory to crown us when we appear before him in Zion; he will withhold nothing that is good and profitable for us in the course of our journey, and will himself be our reward, when we come to the end of it. While, therefore, we are strangers and sojourners here below, far from that heavenly country where we would be, in whom should we trust to bring us to the holy city, the new Jerusalem, of which the Lord God and the Lamb are the temple, but in thee, O Saviour and Redeemer, who art the head of every creature, the captain of the armies of heaven and earth, the Lord of hosts, and King of glory? Blessed, thrice blessed is the man that trusteth in thee.” Horne.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 84". Benson's Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13